Part 2 of a Trilogy of Graphic Novels, Cottons: The White Carrot by Writer Jim Pascoe and Artist Heidi Arnhold is a Polished Fantasy that Builds a New World of Pure Imagination.
By John Lavitt
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) January 31, 2020 – Yes, I would be celebrating Cottons: The White Carrot, a brilliant graphic novel collaboration between writer Jim Pascoe and artist Heidi Arnhold, if I didn’t know the creators. Since I am friends with both of them, it’s important to pull the covers from this review and reveal that fact. However, this close connection also provides a depth of understanding that is not found in a typical review. Since I have been connected to the Cottons Trilogy from early on when the story was being developed, I can provide some insider insight. Hopefully, such insight will motivate you to embrace Bridgebelle and the World of Lavender, where magic and industry, art and mythology battle and thrive.
I must admit that it’s a rare pleasure when friends you care about do great work. One of the hallmarks of maturity is the ability to take pleasure in the achievements of others.
When friends take on the overwhelming task of creating a trilogy of graphic novels, the fear is that the common pitfalls of storytelling will trip up the project. After all, whether in movies and television or novels and comics, world-building is truly difficult. So much can go wrong when you are fabricating a new reality.
In Cottons, however, Jim Pascoe must have a lucky rabbit’s foot hidden somewhere, although this idea feels a bit macabre in this context. Without question, he has done the footwork needed – miles and miles of footwork – to successfully build a world that feels both complex and accessible. Inspired by quality sources ranging from Richard Adams; Watership Down and J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings to George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal, Pascoe fleshes out a world that feels familiar while also being utterly inventive. Such a balance provides a passport for the reader. Indeed, you will know soon enough why “Wind Is Love” in the Vale. You will see how the artistic spirituality of the rabbits collides with the addictive avarice of the foxes.
Still, world-building in a graphic novel demands more than a great story. It also requires art that can make that story come to life. How many graphic novels have been hamstrung by having art that failed to bring the story to life? When creating a world where anthropomorphic rabbits work in Steampunk factories and create magical art inspired by Mandalas and Eastern spiritual traditions, it’s easy to imagine many artists fumbling the ball and failing to bring such a vision to life. Hence, this is why the marriage between Pascoe’s writing and Heidi Arnhold’s art is so impressive. It would have been a sin if this writer and this artist had not met. Together, they have created a masterwork.
Beyond being able to render the fantastic, Heidi Arnhold’s deep empathy for rabbits comes through on almost every page. The expressions of the characters fit their personalities, and the variance of emotional reality is incredible. From everyday annoyance to awed wonder, you know and identify with the range of emotions experienced by the characters throughout the story. I know how grateful Jim Pascoe was when he discovered an artist who could imbue his words with an elevated reality that gives them volition and life. When you behold the vibrancy on these pages, you cannot deny that you are experiencing a graphic novel collaboration that is truly special.
Ultimately, however, if you want to take this fabulous journey, you need to start at the beginning. Although Cottons: The White Carrot is being released by First Second Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers, on February 18, 2020, you really should start by reading the first volume, Cottons: The Secret of The Wind. Since both beautiful hardcover volumes are on Amazon at very reasonable prices, it makes sense to purchase them together.
A final note about the classification of these graphic novels: Both Amazon and your local bookstore classify these volumes as kids books. Although perfect for a teenager, the stories work even better when read by adults. The complexity of the world-building and the beauty of the art deserve a readership that transcends the childrens marketplace. Often, new work can be so inventive that it defies a clear category as it creates a new genre. Such is the fate of these graphic novels.
Maybe I sound like a cheerleader. Instead, I see myself as a soul who is amazed by the accomplishments of his friends. In the Cottons Trilogy, they have managed to build a world that is so unexpected. When I first heard about it, I was receptive mainly because of the personal connection. Now that I hold the finished product in my hands, I celebrate an achievement that I would love regardless of the identity of the writer and the artist.
Please allow these graphic novels to amaze you as well.