If, like me, you look again and again at the artwork in this book wondering ‘Where have I seen these faces before?’ then you must be a Viz reader. John Fardell is a Viz artist, who brings some of that anarchic humour to the story of ‘Manfred’. The art of the comic book is put to rich use in this picture book, where there is a complex interweaving of words and pictures. In one case a page with just five words of text is complemented by a strip of six illustrations, opening up a single event into a brilliant sequence of antics that children will pore over.
The illustrations come into their own when we discover the various uses to which Manfred the Baddie puts the inventors he kidnaps. They also render homage to Heath Robinson, with gadgetry every bit as fiendish and engaging as the great man at his best.
Fardell plays with badness. Manfred is, ultimately, a rogue who longs to be loved. His final act of evil will not be unfamiliar to some children (though we’d never encourage it!).