Sunday, March 2, 2014

Finder by Carla Speed McNeil Really is THAT Good

After loosing track of it for a few years I recently bought the graphic novel of Finder: Voice, a story arc in Carla Speed McNeil's brilliant Finder comic.  I first read Finder when the original issues of the Talisman arc were coming out.  Back then Finder was an independent comic book that eventually got collected in trade paperbacks/graphic novels.  Now it is a web comic that eventually gets collected in hard and soft back editions.

Finder #21, Talisman Part 3,
one of my all-time favorite comic covers.
McNeil refers to Finder as "aboriginal science fiction" or "science fiction where the science is cultural anthropology," as she said in at least one interview.  The story takes place in a future Earth where humans have a complex clan system and share the world with human-animal hybrids and technologies that could develop from our own.

The characters who tie all the stories together include Jeager, a drifter with no clan ties but certain advantages derived from his unusual background and biology.  Jeager has befriended the mixed-clan Grosvenor-Lockhart family, each of whom live with their own combination of blessings and curses from their ancestry.
Finder: Beware of Dog cover
featuring main character, Jeager.

Although you won't get the full effect from the web comic, Speed McNeil's art is some of the best in the business, in my opinion.  There are not a lot of comic artists I would consider buying original art from, but she is one.  Like some other independent comic creators, she does the whole process herself, pencils, inks, letters and covers, and it's all good.

Finder: King of the Cats, featuring lion-people, the Nyima,
among whom all women and few men have language.
What puts Finder over the top is the writing.  Speed McNeil not only gives us great characters and interesting plots, she addresses issues in a deep and involved way.  The parallels between the Finder world an ours range from obvious to complex and subtle.  Speed McNeil uses them to say a lot about us and how we organize ourselves.  She does a lot with gender and class issues as well as how we relate to technology and how all of these things contribute to our identities.  Race, religion, and sexuality are also within scope.

To my knowledge Finder is entirely unique.  The only thing that prevents me from recommending it for "everybody" is that she writes about issues like sex work with a frankness that might not be appropriate for some younger readers or to the liking of others.

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