Sunday, 15 May 2016

Review: Long John Silver by Xavier Dorison and Mathieu Laufray

I must admit to not being a big fan of the Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The plot was perhaps a bit too simplistic - I found coming-of-age stories dull even as a child - and the characters uninteresting. The only potential character in the bunch was always the pirate Long John Silver and that potential has been over-used ever since then by many other authors and script-writers, either adapting the original story or revisiting the characters in some other way. Xavier Dorison and Mathieu Laufray's take in the four part graphic novel, Long John Silver, is unique enough, however, to make their story stand out from the rest.

The story begins with Lady Vivian Hastings, a noblewoman who has led a questionable lifestyle ever since her husband's disappearance and probable death in the Amazon river region, searching for the legendary city of Guyanacapac. Now, as her husband's brother suddenly announces the her husband is actually still alive and has asked him to kick her out of their house and sell everything, she rushes into action in an attempt to save her lifestyle. She visits an old friend who introduces her to a cook - Long John Silver - who might be able to help her in her quest to join the expedition sent to follow her husband's trail and get her share of the rumoured treasure.

The story is dark and grim, offering death and horror aplenty. Long John Silver suffers from bouts of malaria that incapacitate him at the worst possible moments, Lady Hastings is pregnant with another man's child and every other character seems to have plans of their own regarding her husband and the treasure he may have found. The storyline doesn't stay completely down-to-earth, though. As it progresses, there are more and more supernatural aspects that disrupt the characters' plans and lead to the grand finale.

The final part is the darkest of them all and perhaps a little bit too action-oriented, but when you read the entire story in one sitting, it fits the story very nicely. From the point of view of a historical fiction fan, one might have wanted to see more connections with the time period it depicts. I'm not sure, for example, if the authors researched the area of Amazon in any great detail insofar as the native races and cultures are concerned as they seem to veer heavily onto the side of fantasy there.

However, even though historicity may be lacking in the script, the art brings the period and characters to life better than one could hope. Too many good stories have been failed by their art, but Long John Silver is an exception. Mathieu Laufray's art is excellent throughout the story and there are only a rare panel that shows any sense of being rushed - and even they keep up with the general style.

Overall, an engaging and fun read, but not one I must absolutely reread anytime soon.