Jay Asher, Jessica Freeburg, Jeff Stokely
The town of Hameln is overrun with rats. A mysterious wandering piper offers to get rid of them, for a price. This part of the story we know, but a young woman named Magdalena, immune to the piper’s strange powers due to her deafness, is curious to capture the rest of his tale, and once she does, she has a tendency to embellish.
Although told from a different perspective, Piper adheres very closely to the beats of the Pied Piper story and is stark and simple as a result. The added story, mainly the romance between Magdalena and the piper, could have benefited from a bit more lingering in places. In particular, there’s a moment where Magdalena has to reassess her level of trust in the piper based on a rapid succession of new information. Blink and you’ll miss the interchange of her train of thought, and end up spending some of the most crucial emotional moments trying to catch up.
The original Pied Piper can be interpreted as the instrument of a cautionary tale about the importance of honoring agreements, but as a character, he’s a scary, dangerous guy. For such a minimalist expansion on the story, Piper does a surprisingly smart and nuanced job with him as an ambiguous romantic hero, neither undoing nor excusing his elements of villainy, while adding enough pathos to make his connection with Magdalena credible and sympathetic.
This version of the piper is the perfect self-perpetuating cycle of an outcast. People distrust him for having control over other life forms, including people, through his music, a skill his family passes down as a way of getting by in a world that distrusts them. He also lives with the constant temptation to abuse his power by responding with magical force to the many injustices he faces and witnesses, but as pitiable as his frustrations may be, they don’t erase his responsibility or the seriousness of his slips.
Magdalena, meanwhile, is a ray of defiant optimism in the face of the cynicism and cruelty around her. Her tall-tale-telling coping method, and her supportive home life with her adoptive mother, are particular highlights that make the sadness of the story resonate that much more deeply.
The relationship between the piper and Magdalena is intense and sincere, but it explores the question so often ignored in both paranormal romances and superhero stories, of whether healthy love can ever truly coexist with a staggering imbalance of power, even with the best intentions of both sides.
Finally, the art is done in a beautifully atmospheric style, reminiscent of a fairytale storybook, with great attention to the characters’ visual expressiveness, leaving behind a memorable moodiness long after the story is over.
Agree? Disagree? Comments are always welcome (just keep it civil, folks)! Or keep up with my fictional musings by joining me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or by signing up for email updates in the panel on the right!