The Promised Neverland: Review

The school library has recently added a large selection of new comics. The librarians actually reached out to me for some ideas. Naturally, I provided them with a two-page list of recommendations, with a short description next to each. Not all of these series were added, but a good few that I recommended can now be found in the library, Gotham Academy, Batman: Dark Prince Charming, and In Real Life, which I found out they already had. But the biggest recommendation I had was one that they thankfully took me up on: The Promised Neverland, one of my favorite comics of all time. With the series having concluded somewhat recently, the time is ripe to give it a review. 

The Promised Neverland follows three children, Emma, Norman and Ray, living at Gracefield Orphanage. They’re all living happily with their caretaker, until they find out that they’re going to be fed to giant, malformed monsters when they turn twelve. They’re all eleven, and their birthdays are coming up fast, so the three of them have to work to find a way to escape, while not alerting anyone that they’re doing so. 

The escape from Gracefield is fantastic, with what is easily the best villain in the series: the children’s caretaker Isabella. Isabella is intimidating and makes for a great tragic villain. Emma is one of my favorite female protagonists, being both very empathetic and caring, but still willing to do what it takes to escape, resorting to some brutal methods. Norman is smart and surprisingly ruthless at many points, and Ray provides a nice contrast to Emma’s more optimistic side. The escape from Gracefield is great, but only takes up five of the twenty volumes. So what’s next?

The Goldy Pond arc, where the series jumps from a psychological thriller to a dark fantasy battle series. While this section of the story lacks some of the more dramatic moments of the first five volumes, and has a villain that’s not as interesting, I still think Goldy Pond is better than Gracefield. The action is fantastic, with a lot more thinking and planning than the average comic. Now that the series has left the orphanage behind, it’s free to cut loose with the monster and world designs. Lord Byron and all the other monsters that Emma and the others go up against are an exciting delight. 

Unfortunately, I think the series begins to go downhill after this. The next bit is another great story, with the Lambda kids being memorable antagonists. The Regent Demons are also solid, though still on the weaker ends of villains in the series. The problem here is that Emma and Ray don’t do a whole lot during this bit, same with everyone who’s not the Lambda kids, the Regents, or the Lambda leader. There’s also the matter of Ayshe. I thought her character was absolutely fascinating, and had a really unique backstory, but she gets almost nothing to do. 

Promised Neverland isn’t perfect, especially toward the end. There needed to be more character interactions between the Gracefield and Goldy Pond kids; seeing them bonding and sharing different experiences could have been interesting. Same with the Lambda kids and Ayshe. There’s also the matter of Sister Krone, who is a black woman drawn with very large lips. They’re not red in the animated adaptation, and the character doesn’t fall into any of the unfortunate stereotypes the drawing would imply, but it’s still something that should have been pointed out to the creator. 

Despite the criticism I have, I still love The Promised Neverland. I love the characters, I love the action and strategies that the various heroes and villains employ, I love the unique artwork of the series, I love the writing, and I love the way the series evolves from a thriller to a battle royale to an epic fantasy and back down to the smaller scale it began with. The Promised Neverland is one of my favorite comics of all time, and re-reading it hasn’t changed that. We are fortunate to have it in our school library.

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