Writer: Ben Slabak
Artist: Francesca Carità
Publisher: Scout Comics
WHAT IS IT?
An all-ages adventure tale of sailors, pirates, and the mysterious Mapmaker.
Think Pirates of the Caribbean meets Shazam!
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Captain Le Grand has been sent by King Gustav III to capture The Mapmaker, whose ability to use The Light to create maps that give rise to new lands is extraordinarily valuable. The pirate Captain Lei Li of the ship The Rogue Wave appears to be aiding The Mapmaker and trying to thwart Le Grand.
As Le Grand closes in on The Mapmaker’s location, his fleet docks at the pirate haven of Parley at the same time as Li and her questionable crew. Is there a spy on The Rogue Wave secretly working with Le Grand? Will Li find The Mapmaker before Le Grand can deliver him to King Gus?
Slabak crafts an exciting and compelling story with a few twists and turns that will delight both younger and older readers.
Carità is both the illustrator and colorist for this comic and she delivers effective character designs throughout that will be helpful for younger readers to distinguish between sailors and pirates, but really shines with the look of movement for the ships on the ocean and the layout of Parley.
HdE employs a font that’s easy to read and establishes a lighter tone and quick pace for the story while creating sound effects that are big and fun.
The opening page scroll and map tell a little about the myth of The Mapmaker and provides important context for the story ahead.
There is a "Cast of Characters" page that shows off the wonderful designs and is helpful to ensure that younger readers aren’t confused when they meet any of the characters later on the page.
Carità’s illustrations of Le Grand’s fleet in a storm on rough seas convey the potential danger of Le Grand’s mission as everything looks drenched, but there’s a brightness to the characters so it doesn’t feel overly treacherous.
The character of Master Gunner Lt. Callum Murray acts as broad comic relief that largely works to defuse the seriousness of the plot to track down The Mapmaker.
The panel layouts are all straightforward, and that adds to the readability of the comic and understanding of the plot, especially for younger readers.
There are several interesting panel transitions used to shift the setting. Early on, The Mapmaker is seen in a panel with an inlaid circle to approximate Le Grand using a telescope to spy on him as seen in the next panel. Later, a panel depicting Le Grand’s fleet from above heading in one direction transitions to The Rogue Wave as seen from above heading in the opposite direction.
As the story progresses, Slabak doesn’t shy away from adding elements of sabotage and betrayal that enrich the plot.
There’s a nice effect with Le Grand rapidly looking left and right to signal his confusion that worked nicely to add a comedic beat.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
In several panels, the facial expressions of the characters look flat, so the dialogue has to do the heavy lifting to convey the tone and emotion of the scene.
As the setting transitions from The Rogue Wave back to Le Grand’s ship before both arrive in Parley, the plot becomes confusing and clarity is sacrificed for the sake of establishing more of the mystery element in the story.
In the panels where Le Grand and Li meet, caption boxes are used for their respective inner monologues. The rectangular shape and unique color of the caption boxes set them apart from the dialogue in the panels, but it still would have benefited from a unique font choice to further distinguish them.
In a much later scene, wherein Lady Silvia stands in front of a shop window and 3 cloaked figures pass behind her, the reflection in the window seems off, and trying to ascertain what exactly the panel was depicting was distracting.
There’s a bookshop in Parley named “Better Read Then Dead” and I don’t know if that’s a typo or the bleakest name for a bookshop I have ever seen.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The Mapmaker #1 lays the groundwork for an exciting adventure filled with wonder and mystery for younger and older readers alike. There is a fairly diverse array of characters that will appeal to everyone and the confrontational dynamic between Le Grand and Li that is established is enough to get readers to want to continue not to mention the magic of The Light and The Mapmaker himself.
This will be a treat for fans of comics like Jeff Smith’s Bone to older readers hoping to capture the magic and mystery of movies like The Goonies.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Exilium #1 by Ben Slabak and Salomon Farias.
Terminus A Quo #1 by Ben Slabak and Pablo Verdugo Munoz.
Little Guardians Vol. 1: Trial by Spirit Fire by Ed Cho and Lee Cherolis.
If you like the art:
Gert and the Sacred Stones by Marco Rocchi and Francesca Carità.
Le due metà della Luna by Marco Rocchi and Francesca Carità.
Typhoon Days by Niccolo Favilli and Francesca Carità (coming soon to Kickstarter).
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Ben Slabak (@benslabak) –Writer
Outlander: Slabak is based in Sydney, Australia.
Award Winner: Slabak’s collected Exilium graphic novel has become Australia’s all-time highest crowdfunded graphic novel.
Multi-talented: In addition to writing comics and founding Cloud 9 Comix, Slabak is a world traveller and Egyptologist.
Francesca Carità – Artist
Outlander: Carità is an Italian cartoonist having studied at the International School of Comics in Florence, Italy.
On the Rise: She has two upcoming graphic novels Gert and the Sacred Stones being published by Dark Horse and Typhoon Days set to go live on Kickstarter soon.
HdE – Letterer
Outlander: HdE is a UK-based comic book letterer.
Prolific: He’s been lettering for a decade for such companies as Darby Pop, Aspen Comics, Source Point Press, Alterna Comics, Big Dog Ink, and Attic Studios.
HdE was nominated for a 2020 Ringo Award for Best Letterer.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
The Mapmaker, Issue 1 was published by Scout Comics and Entertainment, Inc. All characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright of the above or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.