Dark Horse’s Once Upon a Time Machine is a graphic novel anthology of classic fairy tales and folk stories from around the world, re-imagined as science fiction. Clocking in at over 400 pages, this isn’t exactly light reading, and will probably require multiple sessions to get through. Thankfully, each tale in the book is relatively short, so it lends itself to sporadic reading. Anthologies can be somewhat hit or miss, but Once Upon a Time Machine is consistently great throughout. With so many different creators, the artwork and writing style is constantly in flux, and I found myself excited to get past each new title page and see what type of story lay in wait for me next. That sense of anticipation stays with you as you work your way through the book, since you truly never know what to expect. Some of the stories have only been lightly adapted with sci-fi window dressing, while others are so thoroughly re-imagined that it may take several read-throughs to get to the heart of the tale. There really is something for everyone in this book, as the stories range from humorous and silly to melancholic and horrific. If you don’t like a particular story’s writing or artwork, there’s always another one waiting just a few pages ahead; but really, I found something to enjoy in almost every single one.
Breaking up the flow of the book are sporadic art pages, each one dedicated to a classic fairytale, and each one telling an evocative story using just one-page illustrations (with a couple of two-page spread exceptions). These pages were charming and gorgeously illustrated, and they call to mind classic collections of fairytales which often had full-page illustrations interspersed throughout the stories. My only complaint with these pages is that some of them are so awesome, I would have really liked to have seen them expanded into full sections!
There’s a lot to like about Once Upon a Time Machine, and if you’re a fan of fairytales, or just well-told stories, I would recommend giving it a read.