Have you ever dreamed of attending a school that was anything but ordinary? Where, instead of math and literature, students are taught the magical arts and study the transmundane? Hollow Fields, by Madeleine Rosca, takes the reader on a journey with protagonist Lucy Snow, a mousey, introverted young girl who has been accidentally enrolled to Hollow Fields–aka Miss Weaver’s Academy for the Scientifically Gifted and Ethically Unfettered–a steampunk-inspired boarding school that caters exclusively to training the next generation of evil geniuses and mad scientists. With harsh punishments delivered to those that underperform, will Lucy have what it takes to survive her scary teachers and a headmistress that wants her to fail?
Lucy struggles from the very beginning. The source of her troubles is Headmistress Weaver, who is less Dumbledore and more Nurse Ratched, who wants her to fail. Lucy is unable to make friends with other students nor can she endear herself to the school’s bratty queen bee, Summer Polanski. To make matters worse, she fails at all the coursework set in front of her, such as building evil robots and splicing creatures together. Easily prone to tears, Lucy is met with constant frustration and the only other child she considered a friend was hauled away to “detention” and hasn’t been seen since. All hope seems lost when she is given an impossible assignment that all but guarantees her ticket to detention. While in the library studying for her project, she comes across a sentient cube that carries the soul of a former teacher, Doctor Bleak. Together, they complete the assignment earning Lucy a stay of execution. The first volume ends with Lucy serving her first tumultuous week at Hollow Fields but who knows what dangers lie ahead?
It’s difficult to read Hollow Fields without ignoring the elephant in the room. The story, including the characters and the nature of study, bears an unmistakable similarity to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter children’s book series. Both Harry Potter and Lucy Snow are fish out of water, dropped into a rich, lively world with which they had no knowledge about at the start of their adventure. As students of the school, they are both challenged to complete coursework under the watchful eye of their instructors and academic rivals. They find ways to make friends and survive, if not thrive, in a world that’s a lot more dangerous than our own. Lucy’s story, however, couldn’t be more different from the Boy Who Lived. Originally sent off to an all-girls school by her parents, Lucy Snow gets lost along the way and stumbles onto an unnatural looking building. Complete with large heavy gears and foreboding towers. Despite its rather ramshackle appearance, Hollow Fields offers lavish living spaces and high quality educational materials at no cost. The catch, however, is that all students must sign contracts and submit to a rigorous, if not dangerous, classroom routines that are far more sinister than initially thought.
If the story bears a similarity to another work, so too does Rosca’s art style. The artwork looks like Western anime passed through a Jhonen Vasquez filter. Certain characters, especially the headmistress, actually look like they belong in the Invader Zim series with their pointed hair, green skin and red eyes, although the latter features are unique to this new colorized edition. The human characters, on the other hand, have a much more distinct Eastern style, though I found that Rosca tends to overuse the chibi facial expressions which makes Lucy look like a character out of Little Orphan Annie. None of these design shout outs aren’t bad, exactly. While the art might be lacking some originality, I found that it creates the right vibe for the story. The mashup of styles gives Hollow Fields and its characters an otherworldly appearance, as if Lucy has truly stepped into a hidden world. The color work, done by Honoel A. Ibardolaza and exclusive to this reprint, is excellent and does a great job of creating a sense of mood and makes certain characters feel considerably more sinister and threatening.
Hollow Fields draws inspiration from several, if not popular, magic school-based stories. Fans of Rowling, Riordan, and Colfer may find the comic digging its hooks into them without even knowing it. And to those that already have read Hollow Fields, Ibardolaza’s coloring alone is certainly worth the double dip.
Title: Hollow Fields (Color Edition) Volume One
Author: Madeleine Roscoa, Honoel A. Ibardolaza (coloring)
Artist: Madeleine Roscoa
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Release Date: 11/28/2017
Format: Physical, Digital (Reviewed)
Page Count: 180
Purchased or Received For Review? Received For Review
Where To Buy? RightStuf, Amazon, Barnes & Noble