January 27, 2015

Modo: Ember's End

by Arthur Slade
Illustrated by Christopher Steininger
88 pp.
Ages 12+

If you ever get to be part of an indiegogo or kickstarter campaign that aims to publish a book by authors or illustrators with whom you are familiar, do it.  It's a worthwhile endeavour that allows you to become part of an inner circle of benefactors, and provides you with great perks! OK, don't do it just for the perks; do it because it's a good thing to do (though the perks are great too!)

I was fortunate to get on board with Arthur Slade's graphic novel project that reintroduces characters from his ever-popular The Hunchback Assignments series:
Modo, the titular hunchback who can transform his deformed face at will, and his companion Octavia (Tavia) Milkweed are British agents who worked under Mr. Socrates to bring the Clockwork Guild to justice.  Last seen in 1874, the two have reappeared in 1885 Nevada, inquiring about jobs in the wild west town of Ember's End. Fortuitously (or maybe not) the town needs two deputies and Modo and Tavia accept, though their relentless squabbling suggests their different styles may clash.  This is especially evident after they are attacked by a ninja-like swordsman who demands they leave town and the "magnificent device" for him to possess, and they meet Miss Annette Ember, the daughter of the town's founder, inventor Ebenezer Ember.

Tucked away in her monstrous mansion, Miss Ember has had a deck of cards and a key stolen from her, with only a ninja star (shuriken) left behind, thus linking the theft to the swordsman Modo and Tavia encountered earlier.  In a dust storm of attacks by outlaws Ogden Bull, ninja Katashi and grass-chewing hick Slayne, Modo and Tavia must fulfill their deputy duties, help Miss Ember, and solve the mystery of the "magnificent device", while endearingly bickering with one another. 
[Tavia:] Now that's a rather curious name for a pub.
[Modo:] Yes. Very Curious. Philósophos is Greek for 'Lover of Wisdom.' You may feel out of place inside.
[Tavia:] Hmmph. Always showing off your fancy education.  How predictably boring. (pg. 6)
By embedding Modo and Tavia's adventure in graphica, Arthur Slade has opened up new opportunities to showcase the two at their best, and not so best, allowing the reader to see more into the characters and their relationship than always evident in text alone.  While this can be a positive aspect of the graphic novel format (all the more positive for Christopher Steininger's sharply detailed images), it can also restrict the text from delving deeper into their relationship, so magnificently embedded in affection and respect.  The addition of detailed illustrations often necessitates shorter and simpler text to prevent it from saying more than can be depicted graphically.  Perhaps it is because I was a fan of Modo and Tavia before they became graphic elements that I prefer the richer text of The Hunchback Assignments' novels.  But I know many readers who don't know the two steampunk agents and will only latch onto the series after reading Modo: Ember's End.  This book accommodates those readers' need for illustrations to support the text, even to help comprehension, with a more linear plot and minimal subplotting.

Modo: Ember's End has given The Hunchback Assignments a final (?) "Yippee!" by sharing Arthur Slade and Christopher Steininger's vision of two much-loved characters and providing another action-packed steampunk mystery that has them thwarting, with much aplomb, New World villains. Yeehaw!

1 comment:

  1. Ethan Toscano: 10 years old" After reading Modo"s adventures: Nonna, it is a cool book...his words!