Set to Sea

By Drew Weing (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-368-2 (HB) 978-1-60699-771-0 (TPB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Alluring, Tantalising, Refreshing and Totally Satisfying Escapism… 10/10

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 and/or taste 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 (The Creepy Files of Margo Maloo), who first came to notice in 2010 with this subversively mesmerising tale of maritime fortitude.

Available in deliciously handy, pocket-sized hardback and softcover editions as well as digitally, it’s a true marvel that this tale never found a mass audience so here I am plugging it again. If there’s any justice this time – when we’re all marooned in our own homes – it will 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 after he is press-ganged aboard a Hong-Kong clipper and forcibly learns the true life of a globe-girdling sailor man.

Initially resistant to a life afloat, a terrifying brush with death and battle against rapacious pirates opens the poet’s eye, forcing 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 discern where his heart truly lies…

Magically circular in structure and beautifully drawn in a worshipful blend of Elzie Segar, traditional woodcut prints with, I suspect, a touch of Jeff Smith’s Bon  and Tony Millionaire’s wonderful confections (see Drinky Crow’s Maakies Treasury or any other collection of this truly bizarre strip), 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, while proving a telling examination of the role of the arts in our lives.

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.