Alice, Secret Agent of Wonderland Review

By | Monday, March 29, 2021 Leave a Comment
Alice, Secret Agent of Wonderland
There have been scores of variations on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Even just in comics! Many of them just simply retell the original story, many just lift the characters to drop them in other situations, and many play with the ideas and themes of the original. I find the retellings generally fall flat, unable to match all of the charm of the original; something always gets lost in the translation. The others sometimes turn out well, sometimes not. The ones that don't frequently try to force references and characters in ways that don't really fit.

Katie Schenkel's and Fern Cano's Alice, Secret Agent of Wonderland is part of a series of "far out classic stories" from Stone Arch Books. They take classics like Wonderland and completely recontextualize them: Robin Hood is a time traveler, Peter Pan is a mummy, and Alice is a secret agent. Wonderland, here, is the name of a spy agency who's run by a Mr. White. Alice joins the other agents -- Maddie, Kitty, and the Tweedle Twins -- in an effort to infiltrate Queenie Hearts' lair and discover/dismantle her new secret weapon: mind control tarts. Despite the radically different setting and a somewhat simplified structure (to accomodate a much shorter page count and younger readers) the story basically follows the plot of the original with much of the focus on the garden party and trial towards the end. And along the way, Alice learns that doing things the "right" way isn't necessarily the only -- or even the best -- approach, and the story ends with Queenie Hearts fleeing and the Wonderland team celebrating with a tea party.

It's a quick and fun young readers story. It's a unique take on the Wonderland story and, while the characters are all changed to fit the modern secret agent motif, they manage to stay pretty true to how Carroll defined them. Alice is pretty straight-laced and tries to take a no-nonsense approach to whatever is going on, Kitty is the most enigmatic and has a knack for stealth, Maddie is the inventor of the group but tends to craft her inventions into tea-related sweets or hats. There's some really clever twists on Carroll's mythology and there's a lot of interesting nuances if you're more familiar with the original. Schenkel clearly did her homework here!

Cano's style is pretty smooth. Alice's design bears a slight resemblance to Kim Possible, but that could be just subconscious and/or coincidence. In completely redesigning the characters for this genre, Cano's also taken the appreciated (by me, at least) initiative of establishing Maddie (and her sister Dora) as Black and Kitty as Asian. There's no impact on the story, but it's nice to see the story updated so it isn't entirely populated by white people.

It's clearly a book meant for younger readers, but don't let that deter you from picking it up. Especially at only $5.95 US, it's a fun story. Certainly one of the most fun takes I've seen on the Alice stories in quite some time!
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