Sunday, 6 July 2014

Mercury by Hope Larson

So Hope Larson is a big deal in comics. She won an Eisner Award in 2007 for "Special Recognition" of her talents - and her recent book, A Wrinkle In Time has garnered widespread acclaim. She’s a real comic success story in fact, so it’s a little embarrassing that I haven’t read anything of hers up until now. Consequently it was with some enthusiasm that I plunged into one of her recent(ish) graphic novels, Mercury (2010).

Right off the bat, Mercury is easy to read, easy on the eyes, and launched its story in a familiar, if well-worn groove. You know the thing: Boy meets girl, girl likes boy, cute smiles exchanged, teen relationship angst ensues. Her characters are familiar too. Boldly drawn, their faces are attractive and seemingly innocent and ordinary. Ordinary but likeable. And that's a mean feat when most of them are teenagers!

Young love, It's cute right? The comic reminds us that crushes are a staple human condition, the narrative emphasizing this by following the lives of two young girls living 150 years apart. The two stories run parallel to each other throughout the book; both set in the same area of Nova Scotia and following an apparently familiar trope. Until it doesn’t, and the familiar falls away and things start getting a little …freaky.

Pages from Mercury
Strong, likable artwork from Larson.
The story pivots on the discovery of magical necklaces that can be used to track down the things that you desire the most, and before long there is the added lure of riches and gold; advances are spurned, and events take a decidedly supernatural turn. From here the story advances at a brisk pace, successfully generating a healthy forward momentum of tension and anticipation. It’s a solid, assured read.

But by the end, when I closed the covers, I had to admit to myself that somewhere along the way, it had just fallen flat. Now, this may be a personal thing, in that perhaps I simply expected more from it - a more thorough plumbing of the depths, if you will, or perhaps just getting a little more gristle to chew on, and I freely admit that perhaps this was never the author’s intention in the first place. Never the less; in this respect, the book left me wanting.

Of course, this is a book about young people getting crushes and coming of age, and it certainly took me back to that time with practiced ease, but story-wise; that was pretty much all it did. There were no fresh insights, no meaty undercurrent, and perhaps not quite enough of a story to keep me interested. I know I’m not the target audience for this - it very much falls in the young readers section of the library. But I enjoyed the Twilight books, and I just finished reading Luke Pearson’s wonderful Hildafolk series, which are definitely aimed at young readers - and I enjoyed the hell out of them, so I don’t think that should necessarily be a issue.

On the other hand, in a final indecisive vacillation, there’s certainly a market for this kind of material, and I guess I have to concede that it’s just not me. Larson is undeniably talented, and I would love for her to tackle some material with a bit more depth (and perhaps she has done - I certainly need to read more of her work before I made any ill-judged generalisations), but equally it may be she has found a niche for her work that suits her -and her audience- very well; and for that I applaud her.

Get it here
Or, like I did, at the local library - yay libraries!

Amie Maxwell
Faction co-editor 

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