Martin Brandt II is ambitious in “Grim Furry Tales: Seeds,” wanting to “go back to the days of youth and rediscover imagination.” While he and his artists don’t necessarily succeed, there are glimpses of this ambition throughout the book. It’s a mixture of the stories of the Brothers Grimm, the sensibilities of Neil Gaiman at his most playful, and, honestly, a childlike wonder.
Rather than one cohesive story, “Seeds” is a collection of 17 short vignettes, ranging from traditional comic stories to illustrated prose to journal entries. The art changes throughout with over a dozen artists, and it falls on Brandt’s writing to keep it all together. However, his writing is a bit hit and miss with some stories coming close to meeting his ambitions, while others are a chore to slog through.
The collection begins with a helpful preface that sets up what follows: long ago, all of the realms (fictional, factual, legendary) were one, but were broken by the Unrest, a corrupting dark force. The last remaining “pure beings” or Avatars were placed in stuffed animals to stave off the corruption, and a book that chronicles all of this. The rest of “Seeds” jumps between the latest protector of the Avatars, and a metafictional reading of the book complete with journal entries.
The concept is intriguing and Brandt plays with it, often framing the adventures of Laurel and her brother, Ronnie, the latest protectors of the Avatars through Thomas, a boy reading about them. This helps the fragmented narrative work since it’s filtered through the reading habits of Thomas, but also hints at the power of the book when he seemingly makes contact with Laurel for a second.
Sadly, Brandt doesn’t play up this aspect, preferring to focus on the baffling misadventures of Laurel and the stuffed animals, which mostly lead to retellings of fairy tales. Now, these retellings are quite well done and entertaining, but they merely act to cover up the problem of what the point of Laurel having the stuffed animal Avatars is. Are they supposed to fight the Unrest? If so, why don’t they ever actually do anything? It’s very simplistic in that nothing actually seems to happen, but, at least, nothing happens in a somewhat amusing way much of the time. One story focusing on a misunderstanding about how CD players and headphones work is pretty funny.
The rotating cast of artists doesn’t hurt the book most of the time since their styles work well together, most of them illustrating the prose stories or journal entries. The one odd spot is “Changeling” where the art by Kit White is manga-influenced and winds up depicting Laurel and Ronnie as small children, which contradicts what came before. Most of the art is very simplistic and not necessarily of a professional quality, but that strangely adds to the charm of the book.
“Grim Furry Tales: Seeds” is a little too unfocused and random, relying on existing fairy tales to provide some of the more entertaining stories. Future installments of “Grim Furry Tales” are planned and, hopefully, Brandt provides clearer direction and purpose in those volumes, because there is promise here, it’s just intermittent and far too infrequent.