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Finder: The Rescuers

Finders: The Rescuers

Against the backdrop of a Lindbergh baby-esque kidnapping, writer/illustrator Carla Speed McNeil explores the nature of two different cultures–one ancient and one modern. So, in that regard The Rescuers is reminiscent of a Raymond Chandler mystery, where the crime and solving the whodunnit is only secondary to the actual story. However, rather than a strong central narrator like a Philip Marlowe, McNeill spreads the POV over almost a dozen characters. While the book does feature Finder regular Jaeger, he’s not the center of the book as he usually is.

The Rescuers introduces us to the Baron Manavelin and his wife Ethany, who are throwing a lavish ball at their mansion located in the center of the giant domed city of Anvard. Tending to the estate’s grounds are a tribe of Ascian aboriginies. Three important events happen nearly simultaneously at the party:

1) Jaeger arrives to work in the Manavelin kitchen;
2) Ethany and the Baron’s baby son is kidnapped; and
3) An Ascian woman gives birth to twins, a boy and a girl, which is taboo in their culture.

Detectives arrive immediately at the scene of the kidnapping and Jaeger befriends the top cop, Smithson. While Smithson’s colleagues investigate, Jaeger announces he has already solved the crime, i.e. to Smithson, not to the reader. Trouble is, cultural differences force Smithson to reject Jaeger’s help, which is the real focus of this graphic novel: How cultural “noise” blinds societies to basic human truths. Each character in the book, except for Jaeger, is forced to abide by the rules of the social group he or she belongs to, whether it’s ancient traditions or police regulations or aristocratic obligations.

This is the seventh volume in the Finder series, but it’s a good standalone story in and of itself. Jaeger is the only recurring character here (that I remember), so while it’s nice to know a little of his backstory–e.g. being an outcast from his own people and so-called “normal” society–it’s not essential to enjoying this tale. If I were to continue the Chandler analogy, one can almost certainly read The Long Goodbye without having read The Big Sleep first. (I’ve read the first two Marlowe books so far myself.)

Plus, McNeil’s storytelling style has gotten more esoteric with each volume. They’ve become less dialogue heavy and many times certain actions take place off-panel and off-page. In one chapter, Jaeger is a heavy presence even though he doesn’t appear until the next to last page and another minor supporting character is shown sitting in jail without us ever seeing her arrested. This makes her work both more real, since characters speak more naturally without needless exposition, and more challenging as the reader must actively interpret how the dialogue advances and relates to the overall storylines.

There’s also a subtle change to McNeil’s art in The Rescuers. The book starts with her typically detailed renderings of Anvard and the Ascian tribal costumes. But when the kidnapping occurs under the cover of night–well, an artificial “night”–she shfts to a less delineated charcoal rubbings. (I’m less conversant in art technique than I am in storytelling, so I don’t know how McNeil actually accomplished this style, but that’s how it looks to me.) The effect was a bit jarring at first, but it really adds to the tone of this particular tale, which features much less of the typical sci-fi world of Anvard.

Finally, The Rescuers is of course available as a collected graphic novel, but I read the story as individual issues that were published over the course of two years. I had already decided to not buy the Finder pamphlets anymore and just wait for the collections when McNeil announced that all future issues will be available online one page at a time. The pamphlets only serve as a loss leader while she makes all her money in collections, which was good to hear because I felt guilty (and still do a little) about my decision. You can see this future artwork at the Lightspeed Press website and subscribe to her feed via RSS so you know when new pages are available. I have yet to sign up for that service, though. I’m still a little leery at reading comics online, although some think that’s the future the industry is headed. But I’m still very anxious to read the next Finder collected edition.

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Comics, Graphic Novels, Finder, Carla Speed McNeil