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Mary – The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Granddaughter

Mary – The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Granddaughter

Brea Grant, writer
Yishan Li, artist
Dawn Guzzo, cover design
$18.99 print / $9.99 digital
Sixfoot Press

The beginning is always today.

– Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

In Brea Grant’s and Yishan Li’s young adult graphic novel the writer and artist explore themes of identity, expectation, and belonging through Mary, the fictional five times great granddaughter of famous author Mary Shelley.

But first a little about background on the real Mary. Shelley was ahead of her time just as was her mother and namesake Mary Wollstonecraft who advocated in her writings for the radical for the time idea of equal rights for women through better education. Unfortunately Mary would come to know and be influenced by her mother primarily through these books as Wollstonecraft died of complications from giving birth. Of course what’s most well known about Mary is her falling in love at age sixteen with married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and not long afterwards writing her famous novel Frankenstein during a summer trip to Switzerland.

Grant’s Mary is very different from her famous ancestor. For starters Grant makes her much more relatable as a sixteen year old who thinks she’s “very good at disappointing people” while struggling through classes, especially biology. Mary just….doesn’t know what she what she wants to do with her life though she’s definitely positive she doesn’t want to become a writer like her mother Tawny, who’s parlayed her popular murder mystery books into a successful money making TV series, or even her aunt Macy who writes biographies of overlooked women or grandmother and famous cookbook author Phyllis. Despite Mary’s protests Tawny is determined to ensure the Shelley women’s literary legacy stretching back to the original Mary remains unbroken.

It’s all a bit stressful and thankfully Mary can count on her aunt, grandmother, best friend Rhonda and her father (who divorced Tawny) for support. Mary is still stuck in a deep rut. Grant is happy to push the character forward by using a mysterious stranger, a young man named Adam, to intervene in Mary’s life by revealing to her a world of fantastic beings.

Adam’s character is charming but his appearance isn’t without a purpose. As an emissary of this world Adam represents a group of individuals in desperate need of help and he’s certain Mary is the one person capable of giving aid. On the other hand, Mary is skeptical and reluctant to become involved and Adam does something that surprises Mary: he simply accepts her decision. Then a faction of monsters that begins attacking Mary serves as catalyst for Mary to trust herself and take a leap of faith into Adam’s world and the opportunity it represents for her. Mentioning that Grant puts Adam in service to further Mary’s character may be a moot point when it comes to YA lit if this is more a rule than an exception in the field. Whether it is or not, sending this message to young people that the spotlight in the real world and in media can and should shine on others besides men. Can you tell that I’ve read too many comics over years and years when female characters supported male characters?

Adam and Mary’s mother Tawny represent two different approaches to life. With Adam you have a perspective that offers acceptance, reassurance, and unconditional support and in Tawny an overbearing attitude that expects a rigid conformity to expectations. Thankfully Grant isn’t interested in letting Tawny languish as a one dimensional boorish and abrasive character and redeems her by having her rush to Mary’s aid when it’s most critical. This selfless act is followed with a confession about secrets that have hung over this mother daughter relationship for years. That isn’t to say Tawny’s concern about Mary was unwarranted given the circumstances that I won’t spoil except to say secrets have a way of getting out of control and taking over your life. Seeing Mary and Tawny heal in an emotional space of honesty and vulnerability is a heartwarming sight.

Yishan Li’s art is a great match for Grant’s script. Li’s figures are described in deft linework. Panel layout is deceptively simple and helps move the reader forward in the story. Li’s color work is composed of decorative, soft hues anchored by blacks of various shapes – hair, clothing, shadows, and most especially the blackened page margins and panel borders. The palette is set off by an equally understated use of lighting. Watch the short book trailer below.

Several features round out the book: a monster compendium, a short bio on Mary Shelley, and character design sketches.

Mary – The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Granddaughter should appeal to readers (young adult or not) who enjoy series such as Lumberjanes, Goldie Vance, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Unstoppable Wasp, or any of DC’s young adult graphic novels.

Please support your local comic shop or independent bookstore by using the ISBN code 9781644420294 to order. Print and digital copies are available from Amazon.

February 3, 2021
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