Neil Gaiman is one of those fantasy writers who writes super weird books that are usually awesome with a few duds thrown in. Of course, many of his works have been made into comics and the newest collection, “The Problem of Susan and Other Stories,” with artists P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton and Paul Chadwick, is the newest one with two stories and two poems. Just like with Gaiman’s works, these stories are hit or miss.
The first story, the titular “The Problem of Susan,” is about Professor Susan Hastings getting interviewed for the “Literary Chronicle” about her life because it is eerily familiar to the life of Susan from the “Chronicles of Narnia.” It’s the best story of the lot, especially if you’re a “Narnia” fan. It’s a nicely woven allegory of this woman’s life using one of the most beloved fantasy stories ever. Of course, there is one scene that, while making sense in context, will ruin the childhoods of every “Narnia” fan.
Next is the poem “Locks” about a father telling the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” to his daughter while simultaneously saying how her life will become more complex and start associating with Papa Bear as she gets older. This poem hits home for many people who have had life kick them in the gonads and never stop. It may be a bit too negative for optimists, but pessimists would love it.
“October in the Chair” is the weakest of the stories because it has a bit of an identity crisis. It starts off with the months being represented by people who are having an argument over who should be telling the story. Then, October tells a story about a boy whose family makes fun of him, runs away and meets a ghost. The story itself is OK, but too much fluff comes before the actual story comes about. It’s a neat idea to have each month tell a story, maybe in its own collection, but here it’s out of place.
“The Day the Saucers Came” is the second poem and last entry in the collection. It’s about how the person the narrator is talking to didn’t notice all these horrible, Earth-shattering things happening. “Why” would spoil the ending. It’s an OK poem with an OK payoff. Not much to say, just read it and see for yourself.
The artwork in all four passages is great. The best ones are “October in the Chair” (Russell) and “The Day the Saucers Came” (Chadwick.) Both are best due to what’s in the panels and the colors used. While some people would say that the panels in “Saucers” are way too busy, they work because they’re supposed to be busy. It’s a worldwide event so of course, there’s a lot going on. “October” looks like the best drawn YA book you’ll ever see. There is a lot of skill here and you can tell that Russell really cared about taking the reader into that story.
“The Problem of Susan and Other Stories” shows off some of Gaiman’s best and worst of his imagination. While none of these stories are terrible, they’re just not up to snuff. The positive ones do show off Gaiman’s skill and the artwork in all of these stories are visually pleasing with two huge standouts.