Set to Sea

By Drew Weing (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-771-0

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Alluring, Tantalising and totally Satisfying… 9/10

Graphic novels have been around long enough now that certain subdivisions have developed.

Many are superhero sagas stuffed with visual Sturm & Drang, others canny crime capers, haunting horror stories or quirky comedies. Age targeting and other demographics apply too, with some books intended for mature readers whilst others are designed to appeal mostly to youngsters.

Happily there are still those others which defy simple categorisation: the heartfelt results of earnest, talented creators letting themselves go where their unfettered imaginative minds take them. Sometimes they’re simply a good strong tale, beautifully told and universally appealing.

Such a craftsman is Drew Weing, who currently delights with his web-comic The Creepy Files of Margo Maloo, but first came to notice with a subversively mesmerising tale of maritime fortitude in 2010.

Now that sublime and out-of-print yarn is back as a deliciously handy, pocket-sized softcover reissue that will – if there’s any justice – finally make him a household name amongst lovers of tall tales and comic treasures.

This beguiling, irresistibly stirring salty saga follows an indigent poet and aspiring barfly with a taste for maritime verse whose lack of true inspiration is dramatically cured when he is press-ganged aboard a Hong-Kong Clipper and forcibly learns the true life of a globe-girdling mariner.

Initially resistant to a life afloat, a terrifying brush with death and battle against rapacious pirates opens the poet’s eye and forces him to accept the only life he could ever truly enjoy.

As the years and a myriad of exotically different lands pass by he even manages, whilst traversing the world for joyous, raucous decades, to satisfy his artistic leanings into the bargain and finally discover where his heart truly lies…

Magically circular in structure and beautifully drawn in a worshipful blend of Elzie Segar, traditional woodcut prints and, I suspect, a touch of Jeff Smith’s Bone and Tony Millionaire’ wonderful confections (see Drinky Crow’s Maakies Treasury) this superbly rough ‘n’ tumble monochrome epic collects the impressive original online comic into a salty, panel-per-page paean to the value of true experience over romantic fantasy, and even manages to be a telling examination of the role of the arts in life.

A true graphic odyssey which any lover of a dream-life must see, this eternally fresh yet solid entertainment is a genuine “must read”.

Captain’s Orders…
© 2014 Drew Weing. All rights reserved.