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The Finder Library Vol. 2 (Dark Horse)

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A man who shares his mental fantasy realm with the world, the kidnapped baby of up-and-coming socialites, a schoolgirl with a crush on two very different professors, and the stories of five crazy women. What do they have in common? They’re stories that offer a more intimate look into the everyday lives of the ordinary, and sometimes extraordinary, people who live in the fantastic world of Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder!

 
667 pgs. B&W; $24.99
(W / A: Carla Speed McNeil)
 
 
Readers of Carla Speed McNeil’s Eisner Award-winning comic series Finder know that the world of Anvard and beyond is massive and complex. For those new to Finder, an FYI: it is massive and complex. The Finder Library Vol. 2 gives some definition as to what this means by compiling four wildly different stories that range from lighthearted romance to a noir murder mystery. They all take place in the Finder world, but they are all at different times and different places. Just like the real world, however, you often run into the same people when you least expect it.
 
In “Dream Sequence,” the world of Elsewhere exists entirely within Magri White’s mind.            Most of the time, it’s where Magri exists as well, trying to ignore the outside world. Sure, there’s an entire corporation that has sprung up and tapped into Magri’s mind to bring Elsewhere to the masses, but these visitors can be cordoned off, and Elsewhere is a peaceful dream, free of any fear. So what happens when a nightmare intrudes?
 
Vary comes from a very small village. She is a sweet girl, who loves to help people. She has also wanted to be a prostitute her entire life. In “Mystery Date,” Vary has managed to leave her hamlet, and now attends Temple University in the giant domed city of Anvard, where she attends lectures in paleozoology in addition to her classes in “the Art.” She has also developed a massive crush on two of her professors: the one is an acerbic, cerebral blind man with prosthetic bird legs; the other is a giant lizard-bird hybrid. Can Vary find a way to unlock both their hearts?
 
In “The Rescuers,” Anvard is a highly structured city that has rules for everything, including how to kidnap a child from a wealthy patron. But what happens if something goes wrong? Detective Smithson is faced with an impossible conundrum—he knows who kidnapped the Manavelins’ son, but he can’t prove it. Can he still follow the rules when someone else has broken them?
 
Jaeger is a man who is never left lonely for long when he’s in town. The women love him, and he’s more than happy to oblige them. He lives a kind of crazy life, which may be why so many of the women he shares it with are crazy too! “Five Crazy Women” proves that no meal is truly free, even for someone like Jaeger.
 
In these four stories, we see McNeil at her world-building best. Each story could stand on its own in any science fiction or fantasy anthology, but they are better because they are narratives from a larger whole. The Finder Library Vol. 2 gives the reader greater insight into the complexities that make up the Finder world, from how technologies such as skull jacks and integrated mind-software shape how the average person thinks to how “constructs” (human-animal hybrids) live to how “the system” works. And linking them all—even if it’s only peripherally—is the Finder himself, Jaeger Ayers. Jaeger is the ultimate mystery, but his actions and interactions with the main characters of all four stories do reveal a little of what hides beneath his cool exterior. Readers of Finder Vol. 1 who are fans of the Grosvenor family (featured in “Sin Eater”) will also see a cameo of them from time to time, although Jaeger features much more prominently than them in Vol. 2.
 
Like with previous releases from McNeil, newcomers could likely be confused with everything that’s going on if they simply jump into The Finder Library Vol. 2. To get the most out Vol. 2, including understanding the significance of some of the people who appear with Jaeger, I would recommend beginning with “Sin Eater,”which can be foundin The Finder Library Vol. 1. McNeil has chapter notes at the end of Vol. 2 which help, but understanding the groundwork of Finder makes for smoother reading. Too, if you’ve never read anything in the Finder series, be prepared for swearing, nudity, and, as introduction writer Warren Ellis notes, “shagging. There is an awful lot of shagging.” But, this is McNeil. This is Finder. It’s a possible future depicted in the most realistic way possible, and it is depicted beautifully. McNeil’s artwork looks effortless, even in the most complex scenes, and is accomplished almost exclusively in black and white, with hand-drawn and –inked textures. She is able to convey the grandeur right along with the underbelly, and can capture that most elusive storyteller, the human face, with all of its subtle expression that tells more than any word bubble.
 
If you’re looking for fantastic, original stories with superior artwork, there isn’t any other way to say it: you need to buy Finder. Help Carla Speed McNeil to keep working her magic. | Elizabeth Schweitzer
 
Click here for a preview of the first volume of The Finder Library, courtesy of Dark Horse.
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