by Carla Speed McNeil
I am a huge fan of Carla Speed McNeil's Finder, having come late to the title after Dark Horse published a couple of very handsome omnibus editions. She's described her masterpiece as "indigenous science fiction", and that's very much on display in this graphic novel.
Third World follows her main character, Jaeger, through three loosely structured segments of story. In the first, he's in Anvard, a gigantic domed city, working as a courier for a delivery company. We follow him through a few of his odder jobs, including his helping an old woman find her way to her family. The stories work well together to give us an idea of the depth of planning McNeil has put into this world.
The second story has Jaeger lost, for the first time, in an open environment town called Third World, among many other names. In this place, he meets a few other Ascians (the nomadic people who adopted him), although they are not of his tribe. This section addresses issues of indigenous land rights, artistic representation, and respect for burial rights. It also gives us a dramatic look into Jaeger's role as a Sin-Eater among his people.
The final, shortest, section, has Jaeger turn up in Javecek, another domed city that is known for the sheer number of infectious diseases that inhabit it. Here, Jaeger is exposed, and infected with a citizen's cancer, as a way of healing her. The story ends with him being put in a difficult position by his employers.
McNeil's work is brilliant. Her art is fantastic, and with this book being in colour (a Finder first), she is able to really expand on the depth of her world. The copious explanatory notes at the back of the book really enhance the reading experience, as there is so much about this world that cannot be explained through the comics pages alone.
I did first read these stories in Dark Horse Presents when they were serialized, but reading them together in this format puts things in a different light. First, I was a little surprised to see that there wasn't really a clear narrative through this whole book. I also felt the ending was more unsettled than I would have liked, but knowing that there are new stories coming out in DHP right now helps rectify that. The truth is that Finder is all about journeys, so in many ways, it makes sense that Jaeger's tale doesn't wrap up in easy segments.
I was going to wait for the next trade, but reading this makes me want to track down the new DHP issues (and reread the Omnibuses).