“The Eternal Smile” consists of three stories about the reality we are presented with and how we grow from them and grow out of them. The first is titled “Duncan’s Kingdom” and is about a brave knight named Duncan who has his eyes set upon the beautiful princess. The only problem with what appears to be a carefree life is the nasty dreams that have been haunting Duncan as well as The Frog King, who kills his princess’ father, the king, in the first few pages. Duncan, in order to win the heart of his love, must now vanquish the Frog King.
“Gran’pa Greenbax and the Eternal Smile” is the second tale of the book and revolves around the ideal town of Frogsville, USA and its richest inhabitant, Gran’pa Greenbax, who has the simplest of dreams: to just be able to dive into a pool of money and not hit his head. Unfortunately, after several attempts and being surrounded by idiots and the unhelpful, he has yet to succeed. But then, the ultimate plan falls into his lap when his lackey, Filbert, discovers a giant smile in the sky.
“Urgent Request” follows the simple story of Janet, who is unappreciated at her mid-level job and is unhappy with her life in general. That is until she receives an e-mail from a Nigerian prince, asking for money to help his family and country. Janet believes that she has found the answer to all her prayers.
The interesting thing about this book is presentation. They are three unconnected stories with three very different styles, but done by only one writer/artist team. Yang’s voice as the writer hardly changes during the stories, especially since the three stories have the same message. He only needs to create three different worlds in which to present the same idea. But while they are all about the idea, Yang is able to create three distinct stories. And this is only helped with the varied artistic styles of Kim’s work. Surprisingly, the story that is least impressive (when compared to the other two) is “Duncan’s Kingdom,” which takes place in a large, fantasy/medieval land. Its great work, but when compared to the fun and breezy Donald Duck-esque world of “Gran’pa Greenbax” and the just plain artistically wonderful “Urgent Request,” “Duncan” just can’t measure up. But if you have to lose, it’s great to lose to yourself.
I really wish that the two had chosen to end with “Gran’pa Greenbax.” Not only is it the titular story, it also ends on the strongest note. It was a tad frustrating ending on “Urgent Request” because it is definitely the weakest story out of the three. “Grand’pa Greenbax” is the total package, as it is the most engaging of the stories, is the most visually dynamic and ends so beautifully, with such an optimistic outlook and even has quick callbacks to the “Duncan” story. The final page of the story would’ve been a great final page of the book, whose message is about breaking free of the bonds that continually hold us down.
I have yet to not be completely engaged by one of Yang’s works and he has found a great collaborator with Kim. “The Eternal Smile” is not only filled with great stories and some amazing artwork, it will also leave you feeling completely filled with joy. With Christmas coming soon, it is the perfect gift for anyone who loves reading, comics, and/or total happiness.
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