Chinese-American Instagram star and comic book artist Lam cleverly flips readers’ expectations from the start with the title of her stunning Middle Grade graphic novel debut- Meesh, the Bad Demon. What signifies bad? What do we first think of when we picture a demon? What do we expect them to be like? Conversely, what do we think of Fairy Princesses?
Inspired by the fangirling phenomenon, a diet of action-adventure anime and magical girl manga style adventures like Kamichama Karin and Tokyo Mew Mew, Lam has created exciting fantasyscapes and dramatic transformation scenes with relatable characters. The heroine protagonist Meesh attends Mount Magma secondary school. Her classes include Fire Breathing, Lava Moulding and Acid Puking but she is happiest when communing with nature or enjoying her favourite show, Princess Nouna. She is tormented by school bully Xavier and longs to be given the freedom to be herself. Her experiences are a metaphor for pupils trying to find their identity and their tribe in Middle school. The universal fear of being isolated for being different is effective and will strike a chord with teens just starting Secondary.
When Meesh’s demon realm is suddenly threatened, she is compelled to undertake a perilous quest to the city of her idol. She chooses to travel incognito. As the plot accelerates, she must rely on her inner strength and a mysterious object to face the challenges ahead. Who can she trust and can her world be saved?
The story boarding is expressive, evocative and dynamic and will appeal to fans of Westernised manga. It teaches readers lessons about judging people on first appearances and explores the importance of being true to yourself. Lauren Perry Wheeler’s colour work which plays with bubble gum pink, pretty pastels and violet night shades, complements Lam’s varied settings and the emotional range of her characters. Fans of animal transformation manga like Anima and fantasy quest fiction will appreciate this exhilarating adventure. Lam intriguingly leaves the plot open for sequels.