I have a confession to make: I really know very little about Avril Lavigne. Don't get me wrong, it's hard to not know that she exists, but the only song of hers I could instantly recognize from the radio is "Complicated" and that's thanks to all the ads for that horrible Uptown Girls movie with Brittany Murphy and Dakota Fanning. Sure, I know she had a hit with the unfortunate name of "Sk8er Boi" and that she's a really big star. But in the great Avril Lavigne vs. Michelle Branch war, it was Branch who was my everything, and I always thought Kelly Clarkson could kick both of their butts.
With all that in mind, I was perhaps not the target audience for Avril Lavigne's Make 5 Wishes, a new graphic novel by Joshua Dysart and Camilla d'Errico. Generally speaking, comics starring a celebrity are something for true fans only, with shoddily written plots that dumbfound even the best of us. I doubt there are many people who look back fondly on All My Children's Walt Willey appearances in The Second Life of Doctor Mirage where assassins are after the mystical tattoo on Willey's hand (I am not making this up), or perhaps the issue of Shadowman where the evil Master Darque steals Aerosmith's souls. (Who knew they weren't already traded away decades ago?)
But then a funny thing happened. I took my car in for its 15,000 mile tune-up and what was supposed to take half an hour stretched into two hours, and I had nothing else to read but a review copy of Make 5 Wishes, and that's when it happened. I didn't care how long it was taking for the incompetent dealership to work on my poor Matrix. (No relation to Lavigne's old songwriting and producing team of the same name.) Because, and I'm almost mortified to admit this... I really liked it.
The plot in many ways is pretty familiar. A young girl named Hana feels like an outcast throughout her entire life, unable to relate to friends or family. Instead she adopts different identities on the internet, and has fantasies about her best friend being Avril Lavigne. Then one day she discovers Make5Wishes.com, a website that promises for a fee to make anyone's five wishes come true. Faced with her parents on the verge of a divorce and school becoming harder than ever to deal with, Hana decides to give it a try and is sent a five-horned demon that promises to grant whatever she asks for. And that's when things begin to get really bad.
Make 5 Wishes owes a lot to stories like The Monkey's Paw with the idea of being careful what you wish for. The fact that Hana's wishes are going to go badly is in many ways obvious, because it would be an awfully boring story otherwise. What makes it interesting is how Dysart and d'Errico (who co-plotted the book with Dysart scripting) followed through with the actual execution of the idea. It's a creepy, slightly sinister book; Hana's wishing demon Romeo isn't content to merely grant Hana's wishes (triggered by her breaking off one of his five horns), but affects the world around Hana as well, dismantling all of her carefully constructed fictions and destroying anything that gives her comfort. With Hana's wishes rapidly dwindling, one can't help but wonder how it will all end, and if there's really a truly "happy" ending even possible.
The use of Avril Lavigne in the book works well, perhaps because she's only a hallucination on the part of Hana. In many ways she's Hana's conscience, telling her the things she needs to hear even as she doesn't listen. As the book progresses, the shift in what happens to Hana's imaginings of her "best friend" becomes all the more interesting, adding an extra layer of dread to the story. Add in d'Errico's beautiful art, with its loose, styled pencils that seem to flow across the page, and you've got a real winner. I've only seen a little bit of d'Errico's art in the past, but I'm quite impressed here, especially with her ability to make Romeo look both cuddly and sinister at the same time. Now that's not an easy feat.
So, I admit it. Avril Lavigne, can you ever forgive me? I love this book that you agreed to lend your name and likeness to. My friend Julie says I next need to listen to her new single "Girlfriend" and I'm so excited about this book I might just do that. The conclusion is being published in June and I am absolutely dying to find out what happens. Above all else, Avril Lavigne's Make 5 Wishes is a book that should be held up to the industry with the important message: this is how you create a book starring someone real. Dysart, d'Errico, Lavigne, and Del Rey Manga? I take my proverbial hat off to you. Well done, well done, well done.
(Can your next project star Matt Damon, Aidan Quinn, or Famke Janssen? Please? Let's talk.)