Finder: Talisman

This is another graphic novel recommendation from my friends who like graphic novels. Finder: Talisman is a collection of three comics in the Finder series. The first installment received a 2001 Eisner award nomination for best single issue and the completed three part series received another Eisner nomination (back cover).

Series Title: Finder
Author:
Carla Speed McNeil
ISBN-10: 0967369134 ISBN-13: 9780967369136
City and Publisher: Annapolis Junction, MD: Lightspeed
Copyright Date: 2002
Author’s Website: www.lightspeedpress.com

Reader’s Annotation: Jaeger, a friend of Marcie’s family, gives her a book that, when he reads it to her, seems to unlock all the magic possibilities of the world. When Jaeger leaves and she misses the story, she is determined to figure out how to make the magic happen for herself.

Plot Summary: In Marcie’s world most people don’t even bother learning to read. With skull computers and access jacks, knowledge and sensation is delivered straight to the brain. Marcie’s mother goes to work by plugging a handful of cords into her head. Marcie also lives with her sister, her brother who was raised as a sister, and her brain damaged father, who can do nothing but lie in bed, scream obscenities, and try to bite the nurses. Jaeger, a friend of the family, brings Marcie an old book and reads it to her, introducing her to imagined possibilities. She is determined to hold that feeling, even if she has to learn to create it herself.

Critical Evaluation: Talisman is an intricate book which examines the contradictions inherent in living, how people must resign their urges for dreaming and reality, innocence and cynicism, and the belief in magic even though it’s been proven quite brutally that it doesn’t exist. McNeill uses a brilliant juxtaposition of detail and inference to illustrate the anguish of growing up while needing to hold tight to the stories of childhood. She creates a vivid world where tiny dinosaurs roam open air marketplaces and technology can falsify feeling.

Reading Level/Interest Age: 13 and up
Curriculum Ties: McNeil’s story is beautifully, hauntingly drawn; this coupled with its examination of an artist’s creative process would make it an excellent addition to an art class. Finder: Talisman could also find a place as alternate format literature in any English fiction class dealing with coming of age stories
Booktalking Ideas: The three page mini comic that opens the book would be a great teaser for Finder: Talisman.

Genre: Graphic Novel
Influences from Other Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy

Challenge Issues:
Talisman does have some potentially controversial content. Marcie’s brother Lynne is a boy who was raised as a girl and has not quite ended up as either. Marcie’s dad is a very scary character, who regularly uses the f-word. He is depicted as having the potential for violence, and bites a nurse on the arm in one panel. There is additional violence in Marcie’s fantasy world; one of the pivotal moments of the book depicts her slicing her father open in order to pull his baby-self out of the corpse. Talisman is not necessarily a dark book, but it is not a book which spares the reader from the nastier side of the human psyche. Real life teens and children, who do deal with disappointment and scary relatives, may appreciate a chance to see themselves, and their inner turmoil, on the page.

About the Author: Carla Speed McNeil self publishes the Finder series. In 2005 she transitioned to an online serialized format. She now makes a living from her own work, but spent a while as a starving artist to get to this point (Naso, 2007 retrieved August 4, 2009 from http://www.tcj.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=481&Itemid=48).

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