Pirates! Magic! Miniature kings! Scout Comic’s new graphic novel The Mapmaker gives us all of this in a tale of derring-do on the high seas, but is this new collection from Ben Slabak and Francesca Carita a treasure trove or should it be lost at sea?
Publisher: Scout Comics
Writer: Ben Slabak
Artist: Francesca Carita, HdE (Letterer)
Price: TBC from Scout Comics
The Mapmaker tells us the story of two very different captains, the king’s ruthlessly ambitious representative Captain Le Grand and the glamourous, swashbuckling pirate Captain Li. Both are searching for the legendary Mapmaker, a Prospero-like wise man with the ability to create new lands, simply by drawing them on a map. The Mapmaker controls a mighty power known as The Light and both captains want their say on who should control this incredible ability. Both captains have crews made up of memorable characters, a mix of lovable rogues, hapless losers and heroes-in-waiting.
Ben Slabak creates an entertaining romp squarely aimed at the All Ages market. The pacing is quick enough to keep the most impatient of readers entertained but there are enough quiet scenes to provide moments of reflection and character development. It’s fair to say that the characters are archetypes (the wise old wizard, the young apprentice, the roguish pirate with a heart of gold) but then the same could be said of Harry Potter or Star Wars. Slabak is no stranger to exciting fantasy aimed at younger readers (Exilium, Mechanix) and he pens an exciting and entertaining tale.
Artist Francesca Carita’s cartoonish style is perfectly suited to a story such as The Mapmaker in the way that it was on Gert and the Sacred Stones. Her expressive illustrations capture the mood of the characters vividly, from the scheming Le Grand to the spoilt, childish King Gus. Tonally, the story reminded me very much Aardman’s Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! and Carita’s drawings echo the exaggerated and charming designs of the characters in that film.
The story itself is a familiar one: two teams, one good, one not-so-good race for a prize. There are no surprises really for older readers here. Who will become the one to take over the power of The Light from The Mapmaker: the secretive, duplicitous Lady Silvia or the sweet-natured, helpful cabin-boy Manu? Hmmm…while you mull that over you might also notice also similar plot devices such as the enchanted compass that leads the way, straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. This is just nit-picking really as I’m hardly the target audience. If you’ve got children who’ve enjoyed the Re-Gened issues of 2000AD, Asterix, Hilda or who are regular readers of The Phoenix then they are bound to enjoy the magic, adventure, humour and quests of The Mapmaker.