Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Danger and Other Unknown Risks by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

I have no idea why this very specific and distinctive book has such a generic-sounding title. I could make up stories of epic battles behind the scenes, with different factions jockeying for utterly different titles (How Daisy Saved the World! My Y2K Story - Really! The Second-Worst Journey in the World! What I Did on My Summer Vacation World-Saving Trip! My Story, by Marguerite de Pruitt!), and only able to agree, after months of internecine warfare, on this one. But that would be entirely fictional, if amusing.

What we have is Danger and Other Unknown Risks, a title which could apply to practically any adventure story ever told. This one is written by Ryan North and drawn by Erica Henderson, the team that did the Squirrel Girl comic for several years to vast acclaim and strong sales and the adoration of a huge number of fans, more of them small and/or female than was typical for a Marvel comic.

The cynical side of me assumes that they did Danger so they could have something similar that they would own; the sunnier side of me assumes that they liked working together so much that they just had to do it again. Either way, this is very much the same kind of story: spunky, young, optimistic heroine in quirky adventures across a world that needs to be saved. Marguerite, though, does not have the plot armor Doreen Green did, does not have any superpowers - she has one spell, which has different effects in every realm and borderline useless everywhere - and, even though she is a well-trained Chosen One, her failure is very much possible.

Our world has been transformed. Y2K happened - several hundred years ago, we think, while being a bit vague on how many hundreds - but was instead a magical transformation. The world is now radically balkanized, with obvious borders between different magical zones where physical laws can work entirely differently. (Our heroine, Marguerite, tosses a toad across borders as a testing mechanism, which implies some places don't support biological life at all...but we don't see any of those potentially fatal realms in this book.)

Marguerite has been sent by her uncle Bernard - this is the kind of "uncle" like Donald and Mickey and Scrooge, where the actual parents, if there ever were any, are never even mentioned - on this world-saving mission, along with her companion, the talking dog Daisy. The two need to find three specific artifacts and bring them back to Bernard, who will use them in a massive spell that will Save the World. The world needs saving, Bernard says, because the magical realms are diverging more and more every day, and that will eventually Destroy the World if it is not Saved.

Readers of books for younger people may guess that Not All Is As It Seems. Marguerite and Daisy discover Shocking Revelations and The Real Truth and have to Change Their Mission. But they're always going to Save the World. Along the way, they steal those three artifacts of the Before Times, run away from and/or confront various nasty or otherwise opposed forces, meet some friends and helpers, and, as always with North/Henderson stories, model positive friendship at all times.

Reader, they do Save The World. How could they do otherwise? And if you've been looking for something to scratch that phantom Squirrel Girl itch, this is exactly the thing for it.

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