Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Comic Review: The Finder Library Volume 1

    I have to give full credit to Carol Speed McNeil for world building and art/story synthesis.  Like last year’s Habibi, I found myself marveling at how she alone melded solid art and design with the flow and mood of her story.  And the world she created is vast, multi-layered, strange, and seemingly internally consistent.  And I’m quite sure that it will find a special place in many readers’ hearts.  Sadly, I’m not one of them.

    The first story, Sin-Eater, which dominates the volume (just under 400 pages of the total 600) introduces elements of the setting, and a cast of oddball characters, central among them, Jaeger as ‘Finder.’  The story deals with all kinds of stuff, from Jaeger’s wanderlust and mental instability, to the family dynamics of a crazed ex-soldier, his spaced out wife, and troubled kids.  Along the way, there are tons of allusions, hints of depth, surreal events, and weird cultural and technological themes.  Again, like Habibi (which Finder predates by a good many years), it presents a broken future that feels like the past more often than not.  A semi-fantasy, semi-science fiction kind of thing.  The problem I had with this story was one of connection.  I pretty much get where she’s going with the setting, and I guess I get the story.  But I felt no connection or identification with any of the characters.  Their motives remained alien, and their actions almost random.  I’m fairly certain there were rational reasons for much of it, but I never quite tuned to the storytelling channel.

    The second story, King of the Cats was very different plot-wise, but remained out of reach.  Again, I found Jaeger to be less than sympathetic lead.  I guess I get that he has trouble fitting in, but he doesn’t seem to have much reason, other than maybe being a jerk(?).  But, as I said, I don’t think I ever quite tuned in to what McNeil was going for.  I can certainly imagine folks getting really into this book.  But it started to resemble beer for me.  I understand that people like it, but I don’t understand why they like it.

    Now, the third story, Talisman, I got.  I understand why the gentleman who wrote the introduction would find himself recommending it to new readers.  It is a story for and about book lovers and would-be writers.  The frustrations, elations, depressions, and ultimate joys of hearing stories and of telling them.  I see myself in Marcie, as I’m sure other writers and book lovers have and will.  The evolution of Marcie from a kid who can’t read but loves to listen to books being read, to an older teen and adult who struggles to understand her own need to put stories down on paper, especially in a world where so few people seem to want to read them.

    There are copious notes to explain many of the references and allusions, as well as some of the specifics of the setting.  They’re occasionally handy for figuring out what the heck is going on in certain scenes.  And following them, there is a cover gallery, which has some very nice images.

    So, while I do think this is a fine achievement; a heck of a grand work of comic literature, it just isn’t my cup of tea.  Talisman made the whole worth my time, and was a welcome exit from the volume, leaving me with a much better feeling than I’d have had without it.  But, if you’re looking to read something very different, and not at all in line with the DC/Marvel superhero soap opera kind of thing, you may want to give this one a try.

The Finder Library Volume 1
Author/Artist: Carla Speed McNeil
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
ISBN: 978-1-59582-652-7
Pages: 664


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