By Carla Speed McNeil
As much as I defend graphic novels and truly believe that they can be equal to any novel, most of them aren’t. Finder, however, blows most novels out of the water. When I first stumbled across one of the graphic novels, Sin-Eater, at a library years ago, I was entranced; her stories and characters stayed with me in all the years since then, and last week, I was overjoyed to see that Dark Horse has published an anthology of her Finder novels, including Sin-Eater.
It is hard to even describe the scope of Finder. McNeil builds an entire world with a blend of futuristic technology and mysticism, and populates it with dozens of different tribes of people, many of whom borrow attributes from various real-world cultures, such as ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Native American. Our protagonist is from the tribe most like Native American, and he is a “finder” by trade, which is a bit of a cross between tracker and private detective. Through his adventures (and each book-length graphic novel follows just one) we explore the entire world, traveling to the different lands and meeting peoples of different tribes.
Every single panel of the 600+ page anthology adds details to the cultures and histories. Many of them include references to our real-world culture (though it is clearly not set in our world; or possibly our world many millenia in the future). Ones I caught included The Last Unicorn, Neil Gaiman, and Masquerade, and they were just enough for me to recognize that for each reference I caught, there were no doubt dozens that I missed.
For some of the ones I missed, McNeil has endnotes in the back (of both this anthology and the original graphic novels) in which she explains some of the references and elaborates on many of the characters and places. I had already been impressed with the expanse of the book, but the endnotes were where I really began to feel awe toward the author. She has back stories for characters that only feature in a single page and names for characters that only have a single panel!
The book is insidious, really—you pick it up thinking to read an adventure story about a lone-wolf character, but the density of it all gets in your brain and has you picking at it for days afterward, trying to unravel it all.