Isle of 100,000 Graves

Jason and Fabien Vehlmann. Fantagraphics, $14.99 trade paper (56p) ISBN 978-1-60699-442-9
Jason and Vehlmann's story of a young girl seeking the help of pirates to track down her lost father mixes elements of grim family drama with light and dark comedy to create an engrossing story that keeps readers surprised with sudden twists in both plot and mood. Gwenny, a girl living with her abusive mother, finds a treasure chest in a bottle, identical to the one that her father found before leaving her family. Gwenny leaves home and persuades a crew of pirates to seek the treasure on the isle of 100,000 graves, but it turns out the maps are actually a trap created by a school for executioners to gather live test subjects. The execution school is played astonishingly well for laughs, as its story is told through the perspective of a young student, Tobias, who decides to help Gwenny on her quest. As a pitched battle breaks out between the pirates and executioners that threatens to destroy the school and the island, Gwenny discovers an unexpected twist in her father's disappearance. Jason's characteristic style of animal people with minimal expressions conveys a surprisingly wide array of emotions, even when one wears a hangman's hood showing only eye holes and a thin mouth. Short and yet complex, it's a strong story with unexpected laughs. (June)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2011
Release date: 06/01/2011
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