I knew I would read Far Arden sometime, as it’s a lovely looking book by a local author/illustrator of graphic novels. There was nothing to push it to the head of the TBR pile, though, till I was asked to review something for another publication. Then it jumped the queue.
Far Arden’s hero, Army Shanks, literally almost leaps off the front cover, surrounded by a lengthy (but not confusing) cast of characters, a complicated past, and a future in which he hopes to find Far Arden, a legendary idyllic island in the Northern Arctic Sea. It starts off as a swashbuckling adventure story: heroes! villains! ex-girlfiends! cute orphans! lost, legendary maps. In spite of many threads and characters, all of this meshes well and swept this reader along at a fast clip, not least because of a clever visual storytelling style and many humorous passages.
In the middle, though, this boys’ adventure becomes something more complicated and interesting. Tragedy intrudes on the characters’ adventures, and a thornier combination of story and emotion takes this in a bittersweet direction to a decidedly noir-ish ending. Fun and funny at the beginning, this goes beyond being a thumping good read. Recommended.
You can check out the whole book online, but if you like it, I recommend buying it. Not only will you support an artist and Top Shelf, one of the rare publisher’s encouraging artist-owned works, but it’s a gem of an object–small, solid, cloth-bound and covered in the colors of sunset and the sea. It feels great in the hand and will be handsome on a shelf. I’ve linked above to amazon, but recommend seeking it out at your local comic shop.
For a fitting explanation of the odd origins of this book, see Kevin’s unique explanation at Powell’s.