cover image The Eternal Smile

The Eternal Smile

Gene Luen Yang, . . Roaring Brook/First Second, $16.95 (170pp) ISBN 978-1-59643-156-0

This collaboration between multiple-award winners Yang (American Born Chinese ) and Kim (Same Difference and Other Stories ) is an eagerly awaited event that actually pays off. Yang writes and Kim illustrates in a medley of different styles united by meticulous detail, almost throwaway beauty and riveting storytelling. All three stories deal with levels of fantasy and how humans use it to escape or transcend everyday tedium and suffering. In “Duncan's Kingdom,” a fairy tale about a brave youth, beautiful princess and dastardly frog king is played out; the fantasy is so note perfect that the truth of the situation comes as a shock. In “The Eternal Smile,” Gran'pa Greenbax is an avaricious frog whose moneymaking schemes are first boosted then dashed by the appearance of a mysterious, peaceful smile in the sky. Riffing off classic Disney comic books and evangelical clichés, it's a sharp satire far more complex than it first appears. In “Urgent Request,” Janet, a schlumpy drone at a tech company, answer a Nigerian scam e-mail to liven up her drab life. However, her motives are not as they originally appear. Shattering the borders between our real and fantasy lives, these bold, masterfully crafted fables have real staying power. (Apr.)