Monday, October 08, 2018

Book Review: 'Long John Silver' by Xavier Dorison & Mathieu Lauffray

Billed as an homage to the Stevenson classic, 'Long John Silver', translated from the original French language and published in English by Cinebook, is a four part series written by Xavier Dorison and illustrated by Mathieu Lauffray.

As the title suggests, the first book focuses on Lady Vivian Hastings, whose husband, Lord Byron Hastings, went off on an expedition in search of the fabled lost city of Guiana Capac, and has now managed to send word back to her that he's actually found it and that she's to sell their estate to fund a new expedition. Facing financial ruin she turns to Dr Livesy who suggests she contacts a certain pirate captain to help her gain control of the ship.

Right from the off I was drawn into the story. Intrigued by Lady Hastings, she came across as a strong woman that was prepared to do anything to get what she wants. She was determined, cunning and at times manipulative but despite the hardships she has to endure, her resolve never waivers. The story sets up her predicament and the potential fallout very well over the majority of this introduction. After all, it is laying the foundations for the rest of the story arc, and is does so very well for the short amount of pages it covers - only just over 50 pages in this volume. The introduction of Silver and his crew is brief but you still get a sense of the camaraderie and that they'll follow Silver until the end.

The artwork by Lauffray is superb, setting each scene perfectly and bringing the characters to life. The occasional big splash pages are very impressive too.

What we get is the beginnings of a rip roaring pirate adventure story in search of treasure, that leaves you wanting the next instalment.

***

The story continues as 'The Neptune' carries on it's way across the Atlantic, heading towards the lost city of gold, with Lady Hastings and Long John Silver waiting for the right moment to assume control of the ship. But a flash point of brutality forces Silver's hand leading to mutiny and to the violent takeover of the vessel.

'Neptune' takes the characters and setting from the first album and runs with it, ramping up the tension and atmosphere between the characters, expanding upon the motivations of the characters, mainly Hastings, Silver, Livesy and the ship's captain, with Silver coming to the fore a bit more this time, becoming more likeable. The story by Dorison is very engaging and keeps you gripped throughout, and the art by Lauffray is very atmospheric, bringing a real sense of the violence and darkness of the tale on the high seas.

***

The third volume in Dorison and Lauffray's 'Long John Silver' series continues where we left off in book 2. The Neptune has made it to the Americas and the ship is now trying to navigate through 'The Emerald Maze' of the Amazon in search of the lost city of Guiana-Capac. But the further they traverse up river, the more they question the wisdom of the voyage.

The more I read, the more I like Long John Silver. He may be a pirate, and a legendary one at that, but there's more to him than just searching for pirate gold, he's still watching out for his crew - his family - despite everything. It took a while, but he's definitely the character leading this story now. Not to say that the other characters are forgotten or pushed to the background, as they're not, it's just that he's a bit more prominent as the story continues.

Compared with the last volume, the pace of the story feels slower, but this works and helps with building the tension up more, as they travel deeper into the jungle, making this chapter more darker and atmospheric. It's still an engrossing read, accompanied by more gorgeous artwork, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the series concludes with next and final volume.

***

The concluding part to what has been an outstanding series.

Instead of the riches they had imagined of at the beginning, the remaining members of the expedition are now stranded in the ruins of the lost city, but as they venture inside, all is not what it seems.

Wow! What a finale. The three previous volumes in this four book series have all been leading to this, and it did not disappoint. The story by Dorison once again immerses you into the fates of Long John Silver, Lady Hastings, Livesey, Dantzig and the rest of the crew, making you care just enough about the characters that you want them to see this adventure through to the end, with the continued character development and building on their motivations and the setting of 'Guiana-Capac'. But it's not all plain sailing for our characters as Dorison pours in a heavy dose of the fantastical to mix things up a bit, bringing a sense of mysticism as well as danger to the story (as if the characters haven't already encountered enough danger on this expedition!). It worked very well, and considering the previous books didn't have much or any, didn't take me out of the story because of the fantasy elements.

The engrossing story by Dorison is once more complemented by the atmospheric art of Lauffray. His art comes across as very cinematic, setting the tone of the action or drama that is playing out on the pages, even moreso when they're over a double page spread. The art is just so good!

I initially picked up this series on a whim, a comic with Long John Silver and pirates - what's not a love! But I'm so glad that I did. It's a very atmospheric and cinematic story, full of complicated characters with their own motivations and desires for going on the voyage. It is also a swashbuckling pirate's tale, full of legends of lost treasure and danger deep in the jungles of South America. 'Long John Silver' is a great read from start to finish. A joy to read and one that I would happily read through again!

Available from Cinebook, Waterstones and all good comic / book stores.

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