There’s a trope often known as, “The grumpy one is soft for the sunshine one,” or sometimes just “Grumpy/Sunshine.” A world-weary cynic meets someone naïve, innocent, and optimistic. They claim to hate this person, find them annoying, tell them to go away, possibly even threaten them with bodily harm. When it comes down to it, though, the grumpy one would absolutely give their life for the sunshine one. I am a sucker for this trope, and if you are, too, you’ll want to read Once Upon a Time at the End of the World.
As the title implies, it’s the end of the world. It’s become a barely inhabitable wasteland, filled with rats, bugs, and a variety of other unfriendly creatures who will kill you in a variety of gruesome and painful ways. Mezzy has learned to survive in this wasteland, whatever it takes. Then, she meets Maceo.
Maceo has lived his entire life locked away in a tower by the sea. He’s protected from threats. He has everything he could possibly want. But he’s all alone. Mezzy passes through his tower only briefly, but it’s enough to make Maceo realize that he needs companionship. It’s also enough to make Mezzy realize that she’d really rather that companionship not be her. Nonetheless, Maceo joins Mezzy on her journey, even though he has no idea where they’re going or why and absolutely no idea how to take care of himself in this harsh and unforgiving environment. Despite all of this, the two of them set about braving the wasteland together.
At its core, the story is built on the grumpy/sunshine trope, but there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s more to both Mezzy and Maceo than just those labels. Maceo in particular may be inexperienced and at times a bit silly, but he’s not as dumb or as helpless as he looks. Just when you think you know what he’s going to do, he’ll often surprise you.
The comic drops us right into the middle of things, with little detail about who our heroes actually are. On the surface, you don’t need to know much. Since both the characters and the setting are familiar archetypes, it’s enough to get us on board quickly and make things compelling even without a lot of detail.
Over the course of the story, though, the characters’ backgrounds and motivations unfold, often through flashbacks (and occasionally flash forwards). Gradually, details are uncovered about where they came from and what drives them. It’s thrilling every time a new piece falls into place, and you have that “Aha!” moment as something that happened before suddenly makes sense. And we’ve only just scratched the surface. There’s still a lot left to discover about these characters and their world. There are three parts to this story, and this is only Book 1.
This comic is at times silly, at times dark, at times sweet, and at times heartbreaking. Through it all, though, it’s a well-written story and a well-crafted world. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Creative Team: Jason Aaron (written by), Alexandre Tefenkgi (illustrated by), Nick Dragotta (illustrated by, flash forward sequences), Lee Loughridge (colored by), Rico Renzi (colored by, flash forward sequences), AndWorld Design (lettered by), Mike Del Mundo (cover by)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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