The Unsinkable Walker Bean has a lot going for it: beautiful art, an intriguing plot, and extraordinary story elements. Aside from the romance of being a castaway on a ship, the glimpses into deep sea trenches, and the fantastical creatures, the story is told alternately in small, personal vignettes and grand, cinematic moments. Aaron Renier really shows off his artistic and story-telling chops with this book, intended for readers age 9 and up.
There is so much detail in this book that it is hard to describe, but I'll give it a shot: The plot centers on Walker Bean, a young boy who ventures off on a sea voyage against his father's wishes in order to save his grandfather. The eldest Bean has been struck ill by a mystical pearl skull and only by returning it to its point of origin can he be cured. Most people think such talk is foolish and baseless, but Walker sets off any way. During his journey, he encounters many strange and interesting characters, including a doctor who is constantly working against him, a friendly youth with a dog, a cat-like girl who is a master thief, and a cook who has a walking, robotic teapot helper. Not to mention the two giant mermaid sisters whose vanity and greed has transformed them into giant lobster creatures who dwell in the deepest parts of the ocean until they pursue the pearl skull.
The Unsinkable Walker Bean is Renier's second graphic novel. His first, Spiral Bound, was very well received. He received an Eisner Award for Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition in 2006. This interview offers insight into his art and work in general.
Reviews for this work have been very positive. J. Caleb Mozzocco commented on how much world-building he does in this book and states that it has "every chance of being the next big thing." The reviewer at Reading Rants wrote that he "couldn’t stop pouring over the intricately detailed panels" and commented on how it brought to mind some favorite children's books as well. James Bucky Carter stated that it was the "most enjoyable, fun, and exciting graphic novel I have read this year."
A preview, excerpt, and activity guide are all available here from publisher First Second. As it is, this book is laid out to be the first of a series of adventures.
Thanks to Gina for the review copy!