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Book Review < Back

The Tale of One Bad Rat

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Bryan Talbot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics


I know a woman who believes with all of her crystal-laden, incensed heart that there is justice in the universe. She thinks cancer is the physical manifestation of anger unexpressed and that victims are victims because they choose to see themselves as such. This woman is terribly well-meaning, and woefully, destructively incorrect. The truth is bad things sometimes happen to good people. Less just than that: sometimes really, really crappy things happen to children who are too innocent and new to have earned the blows. There is no justice, no law of conservation of good deeds. (Please don't suggest past lives to me. Suggest that a bloodied child somehow earned that fate before birth and I will be forced to rip your throat out with my gums, earning myself a yin-yang full of rotten karma.) My tie-dye wearing friend is right about one thing, though. No one is powerless in this world. When the bad things happen, it's up to the good people to decide how to react. They can become frightened and blame themselves for the transgression or they can move on. THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT is about moving on.

Helen is an artistic young blonde who has run away from home and the horror of parents who blame her for her own abuse and their cancerous lives. Helen's companions in flight are her pet rat and the tales of Beatrix Potter. Rats are a much-maligned little species, oft-blamed for crimes they didn't commit and suitably metaphorical here. Potter's work, rich in whimsy and colored like a child's imagination, represents Helen's destination - literally in the pastoral English landscapes where the Tale plays out, and psychologically in the headspace where Helen manages to move on.

-- Kelly Sue DeConnick

Kelly Sue DeConnick relocated from Brooklyn, New York to Kansas City, MO, where she lives with her husband and artbomb.net colleague, Matt Fraction. Kelly Sue writes the English adaptations of several manga titles published by Tokyopop and Viz. She can be found on the web at kellysue.com.


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