Writer, Letterer & Colorist: Kel McDonald
Artist: Jose Pimienta
Publisher: Iron Circus Comics
WHAT IS IT?
A middle-grade fantasy about two teens who learn that all magic comes at a price.
Think the teen energy of Stranger Things mixed with the magic of Sandman.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Best friends Andrea and Darra are in their freshman year of high school, living in a dead-end town in Massachusetts. Andrea is desperate to escape their little town, and Darra is just trying to survive the pressure of her mother’s expectations.
Despite Darra’s resignations, Andrea convinces Darra to go ghost hunting in an abandoned factory at the edge of the forest. Darra is scared away quickly, but Andrea thinks she sees someone locked inside a room before they leave. Later, Andrea returns to the factory alone and meets Carmen, who says she’s a faerie who can grant Andrea’s wish for escape.
Andrea thinks she’s found the way out of their dead-end town, but Darra is skeptical. Who is Carmen, really? Can she be trusted, or is her offer too good to be true?
McDonald has taken classic European faerie lore and brought it into the present to create a relatable and fresh cautionary tale. By keeping the magic simple, the story can stay grounded in character rather than getting lost in the weeds of world-building, as fantasy stories sometimes do.
Pimenta’s character art is wonderfully expressive. You know exactly what the characters are feeling in every panel from their facial expressions alone.
The colors in Stars, Hide Your Fire are muted when the girls are going about their normal lives, but every time Carmen steps into the scene, the colors get bold and bright. Carmen literally lights up the pages, and the contrast is striking.
The letters are done in a simple, easy-to-read, hand-drawn font that allows the dialogue to shine. Minimal SFX and asides keep the panels from getting cluttered.
The relationship between Darra and Andrea is fraught in the way a lot of teenage friendships are, but their care for each other shines through it all. The relationship reads as both complex and genuine.
The run-down, bleak setting is an excellent contrast against the magic and otherworldliness of Carmen.
The price of magic in this story is unique and woven through the story in a way that implies an unsettling reach.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The ending is a bit abrupt, which could be jarring for some readers.
Explanations of Carmen’s powers are often contradictory. This does the work of showing that no one can really be trusted, but you also never find out who’s lying most of the time.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Featuring a title pulled right from Shakespeare, Stars, Hide Your Fire feels like a classic. The “Careful What You Wish For” story isn’t a new one, but with its diverse cast and modern setting, this well-worn territory gets a much-needed update.
Darra and Andrea are believable and relatable teens. They often struggle to communicate as they navigate the beginning of high school, but you’ll root for their friendship the whole way.
If you’re a geek for Celtic faerie stories, or just like a bit of magic in your drama, you’ll enjoy Stars, Hide Your Fire.
WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Misfits of Avalon by Kel McDonald
Raven by Kami Garcia & Gabriel Picolo
Finger Guns by Justin Richards, Sabs Cooper & Val Halvorson
If you like the art:
Suncatcher by Jose Pimienta
All My Friends Are Ghosts by S.M Vidaurri & Hannah Krieger
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughn & Cliff Chiang
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Kel McDonald (@Kellhound) – Writer, Colorist, Letterer
McDonald was an early adopter of the webcomic medium, starting with their popular comic Sorcery 101, which ran for 12 years.
They also edit and curate Iron Circus Comics’ Cautionary Fables and Fairytales series. Each book in the collection is an anthology of comics inspired by folktales from around the world.
Jose Pimienta (@Joepi) – Artist
Joe grew up in Mexicali, Mexico but currently lives in Glendale California.
In 2020, they published Suncatcher, their first graphic novel where they are both the illustrator and the writer.
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