The Lost Colony Book 3: Last Rights (First Second)

lostcolony3-header.jpgA quirky fantasy setting and distinctive art highlight this latest volume in Grady Klein’s ongoing tale of an unnamed and uncharted island in pre-Civil War America.



152 pgs., color; $18.95

(W & A: Grady Klein)

Last Rights is the third volume in the Lost Colony series by Grady Klein, which takes place on an unnamed and uncharted island in pre-Civil War America. The island is populated by an assortment of characters who display some of the more unlovely characteristics of American culture—racism, greed, and sanctimoniousness are high on the list—which gives Klein ample opportunity to satirize American history within a quirky fantasy setting.

If you haven’t read the first two volumes you may find yourself at sea in the third, although from what I hear many people found the series confusing from the get-go. Klein plunges into his created world and lets you fend for yourself, rather as if you were astro-transported back two hundred years or so to the fictional location and had to make sense of it as best you could. A few things are clear: slavery still exists but not every African-American is a slave, law is mostly a question of might rather than right, outsiders are not wanted, and men of the cloth don’t always practice what they preach.

The cover to The Lost Colony Book 3 by Grady Klein. Click for a larger image.The cast of characters includes Birdy Snodgrass, a girl of indeterminate age (but still a child), her father the governor A.H. Snodgrass, her mother the beautiful and vain Olympia Snodgrass, the Chinese apothecary and sometime mad scientist Pepe Wong, and the fugitive slave Louis John who appears to be not much older than Birdy. These and more are helpfully catalogued inside the front and back covers and the assistance is most welcome since as in the Wizard of Oz people come and go so quickly here. The island is partly ruled by our familiar laws of nature and partly immune from them, most notably in the presence of rock sprites which look like piles of stones but move about on their own and may have more mysterious powers as well. The island version of nutmeg is more powerful than the spice you have in the kitchen: when ingested it can produce visions.

Most of what happens in vol. 3 involves Birdy learning more about her past, illustrated with flashbacks printed in shades of hot pink. What she learns leaves her wondering who she can trust. The big event is the arrival of the preacher aptly named Buck Swagger, an outsider who wastes no time insinuating himself into the Snodgrass household for the purpose of rekindling an old relationship with Birdy’s mother. Sometimes the plotting feels meandering, sometimes abrupt, but if you’re willing to go with the story it ultimately proves to be worthwhile (and remember, this is a YA book not Thomas Pynchon).

Klein has a distinctive artistic style which serves the story nicely: working in Photoshop, he creates frames with multiple layers producing an effect similar to the multiplane camera Disney used for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Klein uses varying degrees of color saturation to create a sense of depth and outlines his characters with an irregular black line. In fact, he uses a lot of solid black which is quite effective against the bright colors that otherwise characterize his art. Even the frames are separated by thick black lines, which suggest a filmstrip as much as a graphic novel. You can read an interview with Klein and see samples of his work on The Lost Colony vol. 1 here: | Sarah Boslaugh

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