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Poor Sailor

Sammy Harkham, Author
Sammy Harkham, Author . Ginkgo Press $14.95 (120p) ISBN 978-1-58423-184-4
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This haunting tale was previously seen as a mini-comic and as part of the revolutionary Harkham-edited anthology Kramer's Ergot #4, but as a stand-alone, it becomes an object of beauty and depth. Harkham's inspiration is de Maupassant's short story "At Sea," in which a fishing boat captain chooses to let his brother lose his arm rather than lose a catch. Around that incident Harkham masterfully weaves an entire life of squandered happiness. When we meet Thomas, he has retired from the sea to live a simple frontier life with his wife. Then his sea captain brother shows up, enticing him with tales of adventures and riches. "I'll be back soon," he jauntily tells his wife as he leaves. But the journey is not what was advertised—by the time Thomas returns, his quest for adventure has cost him everything he hoped to return to. With simple pictures devoid of shading, Harkham presents a panorama of the human experience, from quiet fulfillment to savage violence. The real power, though, is in how he uses images to show the changes in Thomas's life. Similar pictures of Thomas on the roof at the beginning and end of the tale bracket the difference between hope and despair. (Dec.)

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