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Hoist the mainsail and wave goodbye to the shore. The ocean is a wide adventure full of majesty, mystery, danger, and beauty, and it’s all captured in this week’s Rabbit Reads selection, a small but mighty nautical yarn.
Set to Sea by Drew Weing (Fantagraphics, 2014)
Graphic Novels / Adventure / Poetry
The main character in Set to Sea is unnamed. He’s an aspiring poet, an oversized landlubber, and he hears the call of the sea. This means nothing more than maritime poetry on the pages of his journal, until he finds himself thrown headfirst—and quite against his will—into everything the sea has to offer in all its rollicking, harsh, brutal fury.
Set to Sea is a delightfully unexpected book. Harsh and wild, lyrical and thoughtful, it spins a nautical yarn that explores the scope of a life full of unexpected turns, finding significance in both the big and small moments, the dramatic and the mundane. The book is unassuming—simple in plot, short in pages and small in dimensions, but it packs a wallop, astonishingly evocative and effortlessly, impressively textured.
The graphics reflect the range of the story, combining wild cartoon art—clearly influenced by E. C. Segar’s Popeye comics—with some of the most deftly-rendered environments you’ll find in any picture book. For the record, this is not a kid’s book—there’s some sword-and-musket violence, nothing too graphic, but probably enough for a content warning.
I can’t overemphasize the word ‘poetic,’ and not just because the main character is a poet. Each page in the book is a single drawing, and those drawings read like words in a poem, carrying on the rolling cadence of the story while drawing the reader in to dwell on each one in more depth. I find myself rushing through the book, caught up its momentum; I also find myself pausing on this page or that page to feel, to ponder, to explore.
And like a good poem, this one is worth multiple visits. You never know what new things you’ll discover when you Set to Sea.
Jonny Jimison is a talented cartoonist and graphic novelist. In addition to a long history of web-based cartoons, he's the author of Dragon Lord Saga series of graphic novels, including Martin & Marco and The River Fox. Jonny lives and works in Jacksonville, Florida.