A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Deadwind SeaDeadwind Sea by Josh Wagner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You could spend your whole life chasing a single story and the only ending you’ll find is your own.

Comics writer Josh Wagner is best known for his own series Fiction Clemens and the multi-media spin-off Sky Pirates of Neo-Terra, but his new novel reveals a writer with even more varied talents than his graphic bibliography previously suggested. Deadwind Sea has all the visual creativity of Wagner’s sequential storytelling, but perfectly adapted to the chosen medium. Wagner’s narrative is intelligent and imaginative, and his genial prose creates a vivid world of fairy tale and myth.

Deadwind Sea is the story of Sergio and Ivette, the village idiot and the beautiful orphan child who falls in love with him. Set in an undisclosed time in an invented land, the tale takes off after their brief courtship and even briefer marriage. Ivette dies days into the union, and convinced that she can yet be saved, Sergio sets off to find the Land of the Dead. His journey is an ingenious trek across the map of storytelling itself. Wagner creates a Russian doll with words. As one tale is told, another is buried inside, and so on until we are deep into multiple anecdotes, each adding to the thematic growth of the other. Wagner’s lines crackle with the pacing and familiarity of the oral tradition, making Deadwind Sea a kind of missing link between Boccaccio and David Mitchell, whose Cloud Atlas comes to mind for the way multiple narrative lines run into each other like a string of fictional dominoes. It’s a fun trick to watch unfold, each tumble inviting the reader to roll right into the next.

Impressively, Deadwind Sea never gets predictable. Wagner embraces world mythology and science fiction to come up with new scenarios and new metaphors to lead us further along in Sergio’s expedition. It would have been easy for the writer to get lost in all his symbols or to lose track of the many threads he unspools, but as the novel approaches its end, the story picks up genuine steam and somehow the author reels everything back in. Connections are made between elements that previously seemed separate, and characters and concepts take on new meaning. More importantly, there is a real conclusion to Sergio and Ivette’s love story, and it both satisfies and confounds reader expectations while also being unabashedly romantic. The final line of the book is truly lovely, and it brings everything to a finish in just the right way. Deadwind Sea is one of those books where, once you are done, you’ll close the back cover, tap your hand on its surface, and think to yourself how good reading it was. Warmth emanates from its pages.

It should also be noted that Josh Wagner is part of the movement to promote creative visions and individual ownership in comics, and that DIY attitude is also brought to this book. Let me tell you from experience, that’s a difficult garden to tend, the prose biz is not an easy one. But Deadwind Sea is a professional looking publication with enough polish to rival anything from a big publishing house. Like his own hero, the author has taken a chance and taken charge of his own fate, and you should be like the travelers Sergio meets on his expedition and lend a hand (and an eye, and an ear) to get him on his way.

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All text (c) 2011 Jamie S. Rich

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