Running Out For Milk

An article by, Aaron Burton

I grew up with divorced parents. It wasn’t horrible, but it also was not ideal. As a child, it can be difficult at times to not have both of your parents readily available. I was fortunate enough that my parents lived twenty minutes away from each other. I knew many other children who had it much worse. There is no such thing as a perfect childhood, but most of us seem to get by.

Let me tell you one thing, though. Dads are the worst. They’re always telling silly puns. They humiliate you in front of your friends. Don’t even get me started on the “birds and the bees” talk. The absolute worst thing, however, is when father’s stop showing up. I’ll take an embarrassing father over an invisible one any day. This is especially true when your father runs off with a group of pirates in order to find mythological buried treasure.

Isle of 100,000 Graves is written by Fabien Vehlmann, known for books such as Satania and Paco Les Mains Rogues. The art is done by an indie comics legend known only as Jason. The book is a stand-alone graphic novel published by Fantagraphics Books. It was released in June of 2011. This book could be classified as adventure/dark comedy.

The Isle of 100,000 Graves is a mysterious place of folk-lore legend. The island is said to be the place of many treasures and riches. Many people have tried to secure this treasure of themselves through the use of maps in bottles found floating in the ocean. Little do they know that the island’s allure is a ruse set up by an executioner’s academy in order to attract test subjects. Gwenny’s father left for the Isle of 100,000 a few years ago and never returned. She has now decided that she will travel to the island in order to see if she can find out exactly what happened.

Gwenny is motivated to go on her adventure by her lack of parental stability. With a mentally unhinged mother at home and a father lost at sea Gwenny finds herself motivated to take matters into her own hands. Her feelings of abuse and abandonment are what drive the story’s plot. A prime example of this can be seen in the first pages of the book where Gwenny’s mother attempts to murder her in her sleep.

For those of you who are not familiar with Jason, he has a unique and consistent art style. He often draws anthropomorphized animals with humanoid bodies and animal-like heads. These characters’ eyes frequently do not have pupils. There is typically little shading and minimal detail. All of these factors come together to make an interesting and distinct art style. He truly makes his art his own.

Vehlmann’s writing compliments Jason’s art nicely. The book finds a nice balance between serious and humorous moments. Though the jokes are mostly dry and witty there are a few silly slapstick moments to be found in the pages. The setting of an executioner’s academy lends itself to many gags dealing with the concept of death. I found myself not being concerned with how the plot would be resolved, but engrossed in the story’s background and atmosphere.

I had a great time reading Isle of 100,000 Graves. The concept of a school dedicated to training young executioners is hilarious. I wish there were a book or series devoted exclusively to this academy. The story of a child on a journey to find out the truth about their family is nothing new. That said, Jason and Vehlmann offer a creative and interesting take on the concept. I look forward to reading more of their works.

Isle of 100,000 Graves is available on Comixology. It can also be purchased though Fantagraphics.

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