Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Compass South by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock

Everybody's got to eat. And if you want to make a career out of creative work, you're probably going to find yourself, more and more, telling stories that people want to hear. That's not a bad thing -- people are your customers and audience, and most creative folks want both of them -- but it does mean that early idiosyncratic work tends to smooth into more genre-identified work as a creator matures and lives and wants to stop eating ramen noodles every single day.

Maybe that's why Hope Larson moved from the near-allegory Salamander Dream and dreamlike Gray Horses to the more conventionally genre Mercury and Chiggers, and followed those up with writing a script for the adventure-story Compass South, first of a series. (In comics in particular, there's a tendency for cartoonists to turn into writers over time, since a person can generally get done more units of writing-work (than art-work) in the same amount of time.)

Compass South is an adventure story for younger readers, in which red-headed twins (and orphans, more or less) Alexander and Cleopatra start off as petty criminals in 1860 New York and go on to get involved with pirates, secret treasure, and another set of red-headed twins of a similar age on their way to San Francisco, where they hope to pose as the long-lost redheaded twin sons of a rich man.

It's a genre exercise, but a good one -- Cleo dresses as a boy, of course, and there are swordfights and chases through jungles, long-lost mysteries and potential new love. Alex and Cleo get separated, as they must, and mix with the other team of would-be fake San Francisco heirs, each becoming friendly with the ones they're thrown in with, and somewhat making common cause as young poor redheads all alone in the world.

And I expect those young readers will like this better -- most of them, anyway, that vast conventional audience -- than Salamander Dream or Gray Horses. It's a fine book, exciting and fast-moving and colorful and gung-ho. If I didn't like it quite as much, well, you have to remember that I'm not a redheaded young person.

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