Review by Ian Keogh
Growing Up Enchanted is a series that really deserved wider attention when released, if only for Alexander Serra’s gorgeous cartooning. Both he and writer Jack Briglio are greatly influenced by Jeff Smith’s Bone in producing an all-ages fantasy series, and while that’s the gold standard, their first outing is also personality-rich, interesting and very readable.
As is common with fantasy, the period setting roughly corresponds to Earth’s middle ages, but with magic and mythical beasts added to the mix. Olianna, or Oli, is the daughter of Panas, akin to the local police captain, certainly with authority to send others out to investigate reports of dragons in the vicinity. She’s capable of magic, but is supposed to keep this to herself, no matter how irritating her new classmates may be. Her brother Antol at home, though, is a different matter. Briglio’s endearing touch is that her use of magic is always accompanied by a disgusting smell. Time is taken to introduce the characters who’ll play a part in this comedy adventure, and once we know the background the dragon involvement increases.
Serra has taken aboard all the appropriate lessons from Smith’s Bone, being a clear cartoonist who tells the story well, while supplying sympathetic personalities and decorative locations, never short on detail. While he has gone on to work for DC’s all-ages titles, it’s surprising work of this quality hasn’t earned him a bigger reputation.
Both Antol and Oli become involved with the dragons, while Panas and his allies are far more aware of the danger they represent. Briglo solves the possible conflict neatly, leaving Oli better off and with a helpful new companion. There are places where Growing Up Enchanted is a little too twee and obvious, such as the page introducing Oli, but for the most part it hits all the right spots for the audience. A second dose is supplied in Fishing for Sea-Dragons/Understanding Death.