The fourth and final tale in Archaia’s Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Witches miniseries is Jeff Stokely’s Vasilissa the Beautiful. Born into a village at the edge of the world, a village forgotten by god, our heroine is a little beacon of light and warmth. Until her mother dies. “Such cruelty,” our narrator muses, “makes you wonder where it comes from.”
Luckily, her mother has left her with protection, in the form of a small straw doll, for this will not be Vasilissa’s only run-in with cruelty. Her father will remarry and she will acquire a stepfamily, a mother and two sisters. A flock of black hearted bats, they will flap into her life and blackjack her into a perilous journey into the deep and dark forest, so fecund with fright that even the sky stops before it for fear of getting lost.
Life, where Vasilissa is concerned, does not seem to be very fair or right, but our motherless child must persevere. And this idea is the glue of the Witches series. Its heroes have met with hard lessons and even harder truths, acceptance being the only path to triumph. And magic, of course. While Vasilissa is most certainly brave, Baba Yaga, the forest’s reigning wretched witch creature, is very powerful. Bravery, alone, will not do.
Based on an old Russian fairy tale, Stokely’s Vasilissa features beautiful cartooning in pastel chiaroscuro. Moon, flame, and magic illuminate its nocturnes as, in the story, light contends with dark and good with its opposite.
And that’s a wrap to this strong little series. And to 2014! Happy New Year and thanks very much for reading. Here’s to another year of great comics, and the triumph of good over evil…