Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 140 (6/23) -- The Lost Colony, Book 3: Last Rights by Grady Klein

Doing an honest and fair review of Book Three when you haven't even seen the first two is nearly impossible, so I'm not going to claim any vast insights into Grady Klein's "Lost Colony" series. In fact, I'm only moderately sure that I completely understand the shape of the plot and the details of the premise, so this is likely to be a quick, desultory overview.

"The Lost Colony" takes place on an hidden island in the Megabuk River, somewhere in the American South before 1860. It doesn't feel particularly historical, though -- there's no references to events or people or even place names anyone would recognize. This may be more an idea of the antebellum South than a place meant to be entirely real. On this island, a colony of oddballs and misfits -- mostly escaped slaves -- have lived in peace with the local fauna, which are hostile to the whites in the surrounding countryside. Of particular interest is a creature generally called a rock bug -- or a rock spirit -- which may be sapient, or magical, or highly advanced, or everything all at once. Into this bucolic demi-paradise came change, as it always does -- in this case, it was the arrival of a white man, Alexander Snodgrass, and his wife Olympia, about a decade ago. As usual, Alexander acts as a governor for the island -- as far as I can tell, purely because he is the only white man there.

The series apparently focuses mostly on the Snodgrasses' young daughter, Bertha (Birdy), whom -- the reader learns in this book -- is special because she was born on the island. She's a spunky kid, but that's about the extent of her characterization in this volume -- she's spunky and determined, but adults talk around and over her continuously, mostly so the reader will understand the things she doesn't.

This volume sees another white character -- Reverend Buck Swagger, whose name signposts him too precisely, and whose cologne and fabulous hair are even worse -- arrive to cause more trouble. He was Olympia's beau before she married Alexander, and has other connections to several other characters. But this book is mostly piling up the complications and signposting the conflict, stopping just before the actual conflict happens.

At least in this book, The Lost Colony is slightly too twee and oblique for me -- though a lot of that is due to Klein's clean colors over irregular black lines, which look a bit like Jeff Smith translated into Flash animation. His characters are all highly caricatured, which helps to distinguish them, but works against the more serious parts of his plot. But I do have to admit that this is a big slice of middle, and that I'm not familiar with the beginning and haven't yet seen the end -- so, again, I won't be too judgemental or dogmatic about it. It's interesting-looking, certainly, and Klein's story is not much like anything else I've seen in comics recently, so I'd rather encourage more work like this, even if I'm not entirely sure if I like it.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: The Mountain Goats - Source Decay
via FoxyTunes

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