Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #213 by Drew Barth

Patchy Stories

Should most books and movies about fairy tales disappear, we could recite them orally without much trouble. Familiarity and simplicity keeps fairy tales in the storytelling zeitgeist and, as a result, makes them ripe for reinterpretation. How many times have we seen the darker takes on the classics—the grim and violent re-imaginings filled with ghouls and blood? But then how many times have we seen stranger takes? Maybe not completely divorced from the original concept but instead one choice is different and this spirals the story into something familiar yet all together different? This is the world where Briar by Christoper Cantell, Germán García, and Matheus Lopes lives.

Briar is a Sleeping Beauty story. We begin with the princess, Briar Rose, an idyllic life, and the needle that puts her to sleep. This new choice comes instead from the prince. While Briar Rose sleeps, he agrees to marry her but without ever kissing her. He instead teams with her father to go forth and conquest in the name of the wrong done to her. As all conquests go, however, this leads to ruin and the castle rotting to disrepair over the decades. It isn’t until a cloaked figure kisses Briar Rose does she finally wake in this new future. But, as she’s been in a magical slumber all this time, she’s on the verge of death now and has to navigate a world so different from her own that most people don’t even recognize the name of her home. She is, nonetheless, stuck in this future with no actual way of going back and only a vague idea of forward from there.

What the first issue is doing, however, is giving us glimpses of something else. Who was it that finally kissed Briar Rose awake? How did she know how to skin a rat after killing it with a sword just a little smaller than her? How long did it take for the world to get to the state it’s currently in? What is the prophecy she heard in the desert with her new companion? The creators have left us a breadcrumb trail leading further into the future of the series, but, for now, it’s speculation as to what’s happening in the broader scope of the story. For a first issue, it’s the ever important hook to keep a reader interested in the long run.

Briar is one of the only explorations of a classic fairy tale that feels like something I haven’t seen done multiple times in the past. It’s new, but not simply for the sake of being new—Cantwell,  García, and Lopes know this and work towards subverting expectations. There’s a darker tone, but not the kind of darkness that feels hackneyed. More than anything, this is an exploration of change and how we adapt to that change while still trying to rely on the rules we’re familiar with that may not exist anymore. 
Get excited. Get sleepy.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida.