Review: Serenity Rose: 10 Awkward Years

Like so many wonderful things in my life, I have Neil to thank for my introduction to the world of Serenity Rose. I read the first two volumes on their own, so when I saw Aaron Alexovich was kickstarting a gorgeous three volume bound edition, I had to pitch in. The kickstarter actually happened a while ago, but I only got around to reading it (and finally reading volume 3 which I insisted I read in print) in the last couple of days. I sat and read the whole thing cover to cover and boy howdy do I have a lot of feelings.

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First off, what is Serenity Rose? The better question would be who is Serenity Rose? Serenity Rose is a graphic novel series by artist Aaron Alexovich and follows the life of the reclusive and painfully shy Serenity “Sera” Rose, one of five witches in the entirety of the United States. She can conjure ectoplasmic beasties, change the color of her hair, fly through the air, use telekinesis, and shapeshift anything and everything! Alexovich’s world is a magical place: one where witches are born arbitrarily, where Serenity is only one of fifty-seven witches worldwide, where there are rock star witches, where there is a special government agency (the SSI) in place to lockdown all the weird supernatural shit that goes down. The book is full of mystery, intrigue, and death defying experiences! It’s a fun place to inhabit.

Serenity lives in Crestfallen, the self-proclaimed “Spookiest ‘lil town in the U. S. of A.” Originally, the home of a powerful witch coven that mysteriously went missing, Crestfallen was turned into a creepy crawly and scary stuff tourist trap and Serenity is the unwilling star of the show. After accidentally freezing most of Lake Michigan following her mother’s death at a young age, Sera’s father gets an offer to move to Crestfallen, pitched as a more accepting community for a young witch. However, Sera and her family are having none of the publicity and Sera mostly sticks to herself. The polarities within Serenity are so endearing: she is an all-powerful witch and yet she suffers from such crippling social anxiety, a fact that permeates the books and changes and develops throughout the course of the series. A whole cast of characters accompanies Serenity, including her brash and loud best friend Tess; the endearingly dopey and nerdy Kelton; her kind and understanding stepmom Zoe and half-sister Mary Ann; and the larger than life, ultra-talented, and super powerful, though slightly meddling, sorceress, rock witch Vicious Whisper. There are a whole host of others, including a badass sheriff, SSI operatives, and those of her past and bad dreams. All these characters have so much personality; each is its own force to be reckoned with.

There is SO MUCH going on in this series. Alexovich has built a complex and sophisticated alternate reality. It is one I would like to curl up inside and inhabit pretty much forever. The main conflict revolves around Serenity’s power, focusing on her mysterious past and the shadow of an incident involving teenagers and a bus. The past has a tendency to infect her present, namely, in being attacked and also attacking. I will leave it vague so as to not give too much away.

The writing is very, very strong. Sera is funny, sarcastic, serious, insightful. Her voice is so real and so close to the reader. You get so much expression from this painfully shy witch. That is one of the things the graphic novel has over a regular, old book. You’ve got thought, but also physical expression. You can watch Sera soar or squirm. The girl really does run the gambit. I laughed out loud so many times while reading. I found myself gripping the pages in suspense and out of concern for our hero. In the final volume, I found myself complaining to Neil how I was questioning the motives of one of the characters. This is a truly engaging series.

And of course there is the art, which is just so beautiful; enchanting and dark, with splashes of color and so very, very detailed. Alexovich puts so much into each panel. His style really grows from one volume to the next. I prefer the style of the second volume , but they are all quite good. I would actually say the second volume is my favorite. So much happens in that book. It’s all good though. I did not have a single unenjoyable moment while reading the compendium. I like listening to what Serenity has to say and seeing what she goes through. I loved this book and it’s worth a read if you have the time.

Now for the SPOILERS part of this review. NOTE! Below will feature SPOILERS! DO NOT READ ON IF YOU WOULD PREFER TO REMAIN UNSPOILED.

Okay, everybody who hasn’t read Serenity gone? Great!

I loved this series so very, very much, as I feel I’ve made clear. The world that Alexovich constructs is so massive. Serenity and her past with the bus and the cave of dreams and her uncertain sexuality are brilliant. Her fight with Stiletta was phenomenal. Those battle scenes were constructed in such an artful manner. Serenity herself and her devotion to her friends and to doing what is right is fantastic. Vicious is a delight with all her advice and wisdom and guidance for Sera. Tess is such a fun character, acting so completely as Sera’s foil. I even love the Supernatural Shield Initiative, or more specifically, I like Chester Merrick. Would have loved to have seen more of him and the SSI.

And therein lies the only problem I had with the entire series. I was so surprised when I turned the page and it was over. I actually stopped, turned to Neil, and said, “Wait, that’s it?” And it wasn’t because it wasn’t good. It was! It is all so very, very good. It’s because it’s so good that I wanted more. I was left with so many questions that I would love to see answered. What is going to happen with this dream book Maddy is putting together? What is going on with Crestfallen all coming alive and stuff? Does it have to with Serenity or with the coven? Who is that Valentine guy and did he really just go away and leave Sera alone (that seems unlikely)? What ever happened to the Crestfallen coven? Are Sera and Crawlsie going to be a for real thing? What is going on with the SSI’s operations? What about all these other witches in the world? What’s going on with them? Are Kelton and Tess a thing or did I read way to far into that? What about Tess’s rock opera?!?!

My only complaint comes from my unabashed love for the series and my desire to know everything about Serenity and her world. If it could go one forever, I would love that. But I suppose, like all good things, it must end eventually. Not that I’m saying I wouldn’t love another volume or two. I would read the hell out of those. But I am content enough if this is truly where it ends. It is a great series and it deserves your and my respect and admiration.

Until next time,
xx

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