When it comes to collected editions you most likely can’t go wrong. Publishers don’t put out collections of bad series (or they at least sold well). You’re getting the whole story and don’t need to wait and in most cases a serialized story format is slow and can be an up and down read. That’s why I wanted to check out Mezolith Vol. 1 (full preview here) and get myself a solid British comic book read.
Mezolith Vol. 1 HC (BOOM! Studios)
So what’s it about? Per BOOM!:
What It Is: 10,000 years ago, the Kansa tribe live on the eastern shores of Stone Age Britain, where danger is never far away. Each season brings new adventures, each hunt has its risks, and each grim encounter with the neighboring tribe is fraught with threat. Poika, a boy on the verge of manhood, must trust the wisdom of his elders and endure life’s rites of passage as he finds his place in the tribe.
Why does this book matter?
Again, per BOOM!:
What’s to Love: Mezolith is an award-winning British graphic novel that we are excited to publish for the first time in the U.S. because it’s a captivating, coming-of-age story with lush, gorgeous art! Writer Ben Haggarty is a renowned performance storyteller, having been appointed Honorary Professor of Storytelling at the Arts University of Berlin, and illustrator Adam Brockbank is a storyboard and concept artist who has worked on the Captain America, Spider-Man, and Harry Potter films. The pair has collaborated to produce one of the best-looking books you’ll see all year.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
If you like myth and fairy tale stories you will simply love this book. Writer Ben Haggarty weaves in ancient custom, belief and stories of their own to create a very vivid and believable story. Stories within stories abound in this tale as the protagonist experiences a fever dream, asks about why an old man is so sad (which reveals an amazing story about swan women) and the backstory of a local witch reveals her ties to crows and bugs. These stories weave into the day to day life of these people and show how telling stories and sharing their myths build on their hunter/gatherer experiences.
At its core this is a coming of age story for a boy who opens the book determined to help hunt a bull and by the end becomes a man. Through his journey he comes close to death many times and it’s his bravery that gets him in trouble more often than not. He believes in the myths which end up helping save him as well as his villagers, and in this Haggarty shows us how stories are important to the human condition.
Told in chapters (and I’m going to assume originally told in single issues) each chapter feels unique and apart from the others, yet continues the themes to build the bigger picture. Without a doubt Haggarty has created a rich world that you’ll want to come back to.
The art by Brockbank is without a doubt one of the best elements of this series. Much of this work is incredibly cinematic with compelling cross fades, dream sequences that are rich and believable and a fantastic sense of depth and perspective. The characters are vividly real too with a lot of detail put into characters to give you a sense of their inner qualities. Take for instance the protagonist’s brother. He’s a man with a beard, but you can tell by his eyes he’s kind. The fantastical aspects are vividly real too and in one story when a character comes upon a giant obese woman it feels otherworldly yet realistic.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The protagonist is a young and stubborn boy who you might not be able to relate to and that may be due to the story never really digging into who he is, instead opting to focus on the actions and stories around him. Essentially he’s the reader listening in and trying to understand this world which works incredibly well. That said, if all you’re after is character building, this isn’t the place.
Is It Good?
A rich world you’ll want to come back to as it makes you want more. You will read this in one sitting, I guarantee it.