Mark Louis Baumgart
- Published on Amazon.com
"Polly And The Pirates" is another, like "Rapunzel's Revenge" in the growing genre of illustrated adventure fiction for young girls. In this case the "Polly And The Pirates" paperback is a reprint of issues one through six of the comic book of the same name by Oni Press. In this case young Polly lives in an alternate past reality where she is sent to a very proper boarding school where she rooms with her best friend, the spunky Anastasia "Stasia" Van Vervendander and the snooty and uptight Sarah Snedecker who likes to spy and tattle on Polly and Sarah. Sarah wants to break out of the school and see the world but Polly likes it where she is. So wouldn't you know it, one night Polly is kidnapped by a bunch of out-of-work pirates who want her to be their captain because she is supposed to be the daughter of the famous pirate queen Meg Malloy. The whole purpose of the old pirate crew to reunite and kidnap Polly was in the hope that she knew where the great Meg Malloy's pirate treasure is.
Polly doesn't buy it, based on the tales by her father, Meg Malloy doesn't fit the ideal of what her long lost mother should be, and she escapes back to the school, only to be kidnapped again, this time by Claudio, the son of the Pirate King, who makes her an offer that she can't refuse. If she were to help him get the map back, and betray her mother's ex-crew, and get the treasure for his ownself he won't spread the false rumor that he and she are an item. So, she does betray them, including the one pirate that has been on her side.
This course of action bothers her, so Polly then bucks up and becomes a younger version of her mom. She finds the map, returns it to her mother's original crew and rescues the one pirate that is being held hostage. We are still only halfway through the book, and there is plenty to come, as there then starts a cat and mouse game between her crew, Claudio, and the British navy.
While I liked this "American Manga" on the whole, it had a lot of good points and a lot of bad points. For the most part, the good points are things like the fact that we see a lot of growth in Polly as a person, she starts off as a mousy, rigid, and timid little girl, but quickly grows into a strong, dependable, and intelligent girl who manages to rise to her potential and lead her crew to find the treasure, and outwit her foes. Another good point that parents might be interested in is that there is only mild clichéd "pirate" swearing, and while there is plenty of action, menace, danger, daring-do, and fighting, all the violence is rather bloodless and good natured, much like an old Disney movie. This is old-fashioned family entertainment.
The negatives are that all of the characters are total clichés. Including the seasoned old sea salt with a heart of gold that is Polly's first mate; Claudio who is tall, dark, handsome and very, very sneaky; Claudio's first mate is a very bad French actor with an equally bad French accent. While all of this might not bother the very young, it will start to grate on older readers. Another negative is the artwork. At times it is absolutely inspired, the reprints of the comic book covers are wonderful, and Naifeh gets all of the gestures, body movements, and facial expressions just right, but the body's themselves seem to be a bit of a grotesque caricature. Everybody has only three fingers, and Polly herself looks like a double amputee as she has no feet. Really, no feet. Later on in the story Naifeh gives her shoes, which helps, but not by much, and the look gives Polly a rather grotesque look at times. The rest of the artwork runs the gamut from being fine to undistinguished linework.
For younger readers this will be a fine read whose story has a strong moral sense; you must stand up for those that are your friends, take responsibility for your actions, honor is important, and that despite all-in-all a person just has to stand up and do the right thing when it counts. On the other hand the story is so simple and over-the-top, it is several steps below "Treasure Island" for instance, that most older readers may find it hard to suspend their disbelief long enough to buy into the storyline.
While this is quite clearly not up to the level of "Rapunzel's Revenge" as far as illustrated young girl's adventure fiction is concerned, it is still a lot of fun, and probably would have read a bit better if it had been in color.
"Polly And The Pirates" has an attractive wrap-around cover, is black and white, unpaginated, and like all "American" manga, reads from front to back, left to right, not like Asian mangas. And while all of her currant adventures are taken care of here, the one great mystery that is raised throughout the book is never answered, thereby leaving "Polly And The Pirates" open for a sequel.