I find myself getting more and more into the idea of all-ages comics these days. In addition to covering some of those book for my regular gig over at Comic Book Resources, I also feel like there’s something really important about giving kids of a certain age the kinds of stories that feel a bit dangerous and teach lessons about perseverance without being too on-the-nose about it. When I was a kid, we had a ton of movies along those lines from The Goonies and E.T. to Monster Squad and plenty of other examples in between. It seems like, aside from a few examples, entertainment aimed at kids is a bit too clean and tidy. But, it also seems like those kinds of stories are being told in comics by people my age who were all influenced by those movies. As far as I’m concerned, the more of that the better.
So, when Th3rd World Studios sent me an email and asked if I’de be interested in reading a book called Finding Gossamyr about a couple of kids transported to a realm where magic and math are essentially the same thing, I was instantly interested. To get a bit more into the story details, the book stars orphaned brother and sister Jenna and Denny. Jenna’s trying to get Denny into an exclusive school where he can focus his strange ability to solve any problem placed in front of him, which is exactly what he does during the test. The problem? Solving the presented equation unlocks a door to another world called Gossamyr that’s being attacked by extradimensional jerkwads known as Desecrators. Both siblings use their abilities — Denny’s math-magic and Jenna’s veterinary skills — to make friends and stay alive in this wild new world.
There are a few key story elements that I really enjoyed in this work. For one thing, all of this starts because Jenna wants to get rid of her brother. Now, that sounds cold, but it’s also realistic. They don’t say it outright in the book, but I’m fairly certain Denny’s supposed to be autistic. I don’t have any experience with autism myself, but his character seemed in line with that of Max on Parenthood. She’s basically had to devote her entire life to her brother which has left her nearly no room to have one of her own. It was a selfish decision that sent their lives into crazy new places, but it’s handled realistically and with emotion. I love how complicated this becomes throughout the story, which adds to the overall feel of the book which comes off as very honest.
The fantasy elements are also pretty neat. There’s obviously a big, well developed world here that we’re only getting a small glance at, but the details we do get (math-magic, cool animals, boats that sail up mountains) are cool and easy to digest. A huge reason for all of this is thanks to Sarah Ellerton’s artwork which looks sort of figures you’d see in a CGI animated feature. I’ll always love traditional comic art styles, but it’s great seeing new and different approaches brought in to this field. She nails the human characters — which are well fleshed out by Rodriguez — but also the creatures whose facial expressions make them more than just obstacles to get over.
I’m not a big fantasy fan, though this book helped me figure out where the line is for me. If we’re dealing with a story like this one or The Wizard Of Oz or Labyrinth or The Return Of King Doug, where a person from the real world goes to the fantastical one (or vice versa), I’m interested. If it kicks off already set in that world, I’m less interested. This is odd because I don’t feel the same way about stories set on earth, other dimension or even other planets, but that’s where I’m at. I guess I appreciate having that character I can relate to who helps cut down on the barrier of entry. Maybe it’s because I don’t like having to figure out ALL the ways this new world is different on my own and prefer to learn them through the main character.
My only complaint about this book is that the coloring or printing seems a little dark at times. If the characters are wearing white, they’re always pretty easy to make out, but when you’re dealing with a dark monster attacking a dark-clad character at night it can be tough figuring out what’s happening. Luckily that’s not a common problem. There’s usually another background color running throughout the scene that helps separate the various figures and make everything pop.
I definitely enjoyed this book and look forward to further Gossamyr efforts from Rodriguez and Ellerton. But, the real question is whether I’d hand this book to my kid or another in my sphere. The answer is a firm yes. In fact, my 2-and-a-half-year old flipped through this book with me for a few minutes, but her attention span is crazy short. She seemed to like the art, but still hasn’t sat through a whole comic, let alone a trade. When she’s older, though, this will definitely be one of the books I show her.