The Explorer’s Guild, Vol. 1: A Passage to Shambhalla

Kevin Costner, Jon Baird, and Rick Ross. Atria, $14.95 (784p) ISBN 978-1-50112-458-7
This massive doorstop of a volume is a curious, over-stuffed throwback evoking the feel and style of pre-WWII adventure pulps that find white adventurers engaging John Foreigner in combat and derring-do in “exotic” far-flung locales. The narrative—created with the input of actor Costner—relates the titular guild’s quest for a mythical Buddhist city, dragging the reader through polar, mountainous, and desert set pieces. What could have been rousing becomes tedious as the authors pile on endless detail, delivered in densely worded prose sections that read like stage directions in a script. Adding to the storyboarded feel are sudden shifts to comics art that relate events in short bursts of panels or full pages of visual narrative. It’s beautifully drawn by Ross and brings to mind Charles Dana Gibson’s Gibson Girl fused with Winsor McCay, but the illustrations, no matter how excellent, can’t ease the work’s jarring tonal transitions from prose to pictures. The piece may have worked presented strictly as a graphic novel or a straight adventure story, but it ends up being a chimera of now-quaint Boys’ Own adventure tropes. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/07/2015
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