Fool’s Gold Volume 1
I wanted to like Amy Reeder Hadley’s Fool’s Gold more than I did. That’s not a criticism, per se, but a recognition that I had incredibly high expectations based on early preview chapters. I expected to love it, but due to my high expectations, I only liked it. The full book had lots of wonderful, creative ideas but ended up falling back on more standard plot elements.
Penny’s an individual, making her own clothes and dreaming of a career in fashion. Best friend Katie is spending too much time with her jerk of a cheating boyfriend, who repulses Penny.
In an early scene, Penny is inspired by a fall day to create a leaf-patterned jacket. Interrupted by her father, she’s criticized for not living up to her potential, but she already knows that she only wants to be a fashion designer. This is a common manga conflict — parents want child to achieve, child wants to follow creative dreams — expressed clearly and with personality.
I’d love to read more about Penny’s drive to achieve her goal, but the book instead becomes about Penny protecting other girls from jerks. Suddenly, she’s being seduced by power, although she doesn’t realize it, and falling in love with the mysterious new boy in school. Teaching others to stand up for themselves is an admirable goal, and she uses the intriguing metaphor of pyrite (“fool’s gold”) for her lessons, but I wondered what happened to the Penny who wanted someone to kill her if she ever became all about boys. If this was a comic series, it would be as if the editor changed midway through and the new one dictated a change in direction to put their own stamp on things.
Of course, there’s the lying, scheming evil girl to serve as contrast and villain, whom no one suspects, unbelievably. If Penny and her growing gang were all about seeing through false behavior in boys, why couldn’t they recognize the same behavior, especially when expressed less subtly, in a girl? For drama and an end-of-volume cliffhanger, apparently.
The art’s excellent, combining the best of manga storytelling and American figure design. The costuming-related plot makes it a perfect choice for comics, as Hadley can show the design and dresses Penny creates. She elaborates on some of her outfits with commentary at the back, too. I’ll look for the next volume in hopes that the creativity shown early on in this book is allowed once again to flourish.