The Eternal Smile
By Gene Yang and Derek Kim
It’s a testament, of course, to Derek Kirk Kim’s abilities as an artist that, upon first glance, there are no immediately discernable similarities between the three short stories that make up The Eternal Smile. The artist adopts a vastly different aesthetic for each of the three pieces—three styles which might easily be mistaken for the work of three different artists. It’s a testament to Gene Yang’s ability as a writer, however, that despite the works’ clear differences, its the unified nature of the three pieces that ultimately stays with the reader.
On their face, the three works could hardly be more different. Duncan’s Kingdom is a fantasy story, set upon the backdrop of a medieval kingdom under siege by an army of glowing-eyed frogmen. A hero is tasked with the destruction of said army, so that he might win the hand of a fair maiden. Kim adopts a quasi-fantasy style for the piece, at times taking cues from artists like Mike Mignola.
The artist’s style shifts abruptly for the next story. Opening with a cover page paying a less than subtle homage to Carl Barks’s Uncle Scrooge, the second story, which lends its title to the book, uses aesthetics borrowed from American and Japanese funny animal comics to tell of a covetous frog who will stop at nothing in pursuit of fame and fortune.