Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: The hardcover edition of ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’, out August 7 from Dark Horse Comics.

'Snow, Glass, Apples' HC: The DoomRocket Review
Cover to ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ HC. Art: Colleen Doran/Dark Horse Comics

by Arpad Okay. If Snow, Glass, Apples was once a children’s tale, the art is its connection to those storybook roots. The look is the close of the fairy tale age, as suited for temple walls or stained glass as it is for a golden-bound board book. The story is suitable for neither, full of sex, suffering, and psychedelics. When the forests were wild and old things still dwelled there.

Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran have turned Snow White inside out, adding other folk tale traditions, the European Christian fetish for suffering idols, and a splash of V for Vendetta self-reliance. It’s a raunchy, debauched, Grand Guignol take on a Grimm story.

Stepmother, scrying, losing a heart, a magic wood: you’ll find it. What kind of thing could survive, without a heart, in a magic wood? You’ll find that, too. The V this time is for vampire.

Vampires are monsters of control, possession. Taking life to live. Worse than taking your life, to live forever as a slave. Vampires are hunger, desire, vampires are physical yearning. So a horny, hungry book fits. One where the whole town rejoices at midwinter’s roasted flesh. The pig watching you from the spit did not consent.

This Rashomon Snow White tale fits the teller. An evil stepdaughter, an innocent queen, their impossible placement on opposite sides of a mirror, one a reflection of the other.

Colleen Doran’s work on Snow, Glass, Apples is breathtakingly ornate. That mirror is set with a patterned handle, held up in an ageless wood. A second reflection beside it is encircled by flying leaves, and the night air and stray fronds become hair and a crown. A runner caught in spiders’ webs and a field of roots. You can see on each page tremendous amounts of time and passion. Doran had a vision and walked a mile in inked lines to achieve it.

Doran has cited Harry Clarke as a spirit guide and visual informer of her work on this book. Clarke’s hyper-detailed creatures of glamour were an Elric to Aubrey Beardsley’s Salome. Clarke created the Aquarian Tarot style fifty years before the deck existed. Much of Snow, Glass, Apples is presented as Clarke did, portraits of the fey surrounded on all sides by fabulous textures.

I can also see in Doran’s art a beheading suited for Suehiro Maruo and an odd middle ground between the Stations of the Cross and paper fashion dolls. Doran uses the revulsive power of eroticizing the physicality of religious suffering and exploring-exploiting the taboo of kissing a dead girl. It connects as sometimes exciting, sometimes alarming, frequently both.

Doran’s adaptation has unearthed something within Gaiman’s short story that has elevated it to more than it was before. Snow, Glass, Apples is a mixture of comics tradition—showing what was written—and the picturebook tradition of framing what was written in the iconography it inspires. Doran has pulled an illustrated encyclopedia out of the cultural roots of Gaiman’s dreams and Grimm’s world.

You will spot actual panels and gutters from time to time, but Doran’s storytelling is largely done in that storybook style—harder to follow than a traditional, commercial comic book layout, but familiar enough in a school library kind of way to still read smoothly.

Imagine a diptych: a multiple exposure montage rolling down the page, beside it stands a solemn figure, half Tarot card, half novena. A fantastic chamber with columns of herbs and dried apples that divide time into scenes. Our friend hog on the spit is part of a cornucopia of cured meat. Inside an astrolabe of Czech glass and red velvet, a Sidney Sime faerie queen in profile is an art deco dream named peacock cosmonaut.

Clarke’s influence as a stained glass storyteller comes through in Doran’s process beyond color as texture. Think of a window as a single-beat story. Here I am, says a saint, wreathed in symbols of my ascension. Snow, Glass, Apples lives too, and speaks through the same ancient channels.

Dark Horse Books / Dark Horse Comics / $17.99

Written by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran.

Art by Colleen Doran.

Colors by Colleen Doran.

Color flatting by Val Trullinger.

Lettered by Todd Klein.

Edited by Daniel Chabon.

8 out of 10

‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ hits stores August 7. You can pre-order it now. (Diamond Code: APR190247)