Welcome to Wanderland #1
Writer: Jackie Ball
Artist: Maddi Gonzalez
Colorist: Nimali Abeyratne
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Review by Melissa Prange
Bellamy Morris is one of Wanderland’s biggest fans. She knows all the theme park’s secrets and even has an inside source through her brother (a.k.a. Princess Lark Meadowstone). It frustrates her to see the park turning derelict (the lights in the castle haven’t been on for months), but no one else seems to care about Wanderland’s well-being likes she does. One day, the park’s motto, “If you only believe what you see, you might miss something wonderful. . .” gets stuck in her head. The catchy turn of phrase leads her back to the park, where she discovers a secret door. Bellamy, hoping to find something fantastic, steps through the entrance and into another, very familiar world.
Welcome to Wanderland #1 is portal fantasy about a young girl who’s much angier than either Lucy Pevensie or Alice. She’s obsessed with a theme park–which might seem slightly familiar to readers–and it’s her love of that theme park that’ll help her save the day when she enters the real Wanderland. Joined by Riot, a blue-haired princess with a love of food, Bellamy heads out on her adventure to discover why she’s stuck in this new, magical realm.
The art in Welcome to Wanderland #1 is bright, cartoonish, and fun. Riot, in particular, looks fabulous with her blue hair and floofy, short dress. Her look seems made for cosplayers and her attitude is very “What if Squirrel Girl really liked ham?” Bellamy is a little more plain–which suits her nerdy, grumpy self–and Princess Syla, the possible villain, has the wicked stepmother look down. The characters and character designs are the strongest points of the comic, and they’re the reason this series might be worth a further look.
Unfortunately, there are some reasons why this comic isn’t a must read. A lot of odd choices were made in regard to the comic’s pacing. The story jumps around so much after Bellamy enters the real Wanderland that things become increasingly confusing. The development of both Wanderlands is also virtually nonexistent–which causes problems when we see Bellamy using her Wanderland knowledge to save herself. It would have been more satisfying if we already knew Bellamy had this knowledge, but this comic lacks any such payoff. Too many of its precious few pages are spent outside of the park and the comic falters because of that. Welcome to Wanderland #1 relies too much on the reader’s knowledge of a certain real-world theme park rather than fully developing its own–which is a shame.
The Verdict: Wait and See.
Welcome to Wanderland #1 doesn’t quite deliver on the ingenuity of its premise. The pacing is rough and Wanderland (both the theme park and the real deal) lack magic. If more time had been spent developing the theme park, the comic might work better. As it is, everything feels too random and one-dimensional. Still, it might be worth holding out hope that this series could pull it together in the next three issues. The characters and artwork are great, and the premise is so good that hopefully Wanderland can still capture that magical spark after all.