Drawing Conclusions: A Serial Reader, Plague Stories

What does Captain Trips mean anyway?

NY: Marvel Publishing Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Writer Mike Perkins, Artwork Laura Marin, Colourist

If you could ask General Bill Starkey he would NOT say 99.4% communicability, 99.4% excess mortality.

He can’t say that: he works for the government.

But that’s what it means.

Readers of the graphic novel version of Stephen King’s classic dystopian novel meet only a fragment of those 99.4% of the population, most of those in an attempt to introduce some of the 0.6%, the survivors who are the heart of this story.

The story slips between characters as easily as the full novel, and the details in the depiction of their once-ordinary-now-bizarre lives make it easy to relate to them, make the tension that much more palpable.

With storylines unfolding in Maine, NYC, California and Atlanta (well, you knew the CDC would figure in a plague novel, right?), and in urban and rural settings, the canvas manages to feel broad, despite the focus on a handful of individuals.

Realistic dialogue, characters from a variety of backgrounds, and the everyday circumstances in which they find themselves make this story that much more compelling, as the situation grows more complex.

Given the relatively slim page count, the first volume of the graphic novel does a fine job of distilling the story, which sprawls beyond 1,000 pages in the original novel.

But for readers who have read the full version, the desire to revisit the original might overwhelm the desire to read on in the graphic novel.

(At least that’s what happened to me, but I do intend to return to the graphic novel series afterwards.)

Highwater Press, 2010

David Alexander Robertson’s 
Seven Generations Series
Volumes I (Stone),
II (Scars), III (Ends/Begins)

Scott B. Henderson, Artwork 

The individual volumes of David Alexander Robertson’s series have not yet been bound in book form.

Alongside the polished Marvel glamour treatment, they appear earnest and unadorned.

And, yet, they too are stories rooted in darkness, as readers can grasp from a glimpse at the cover, with the menacing bulk of the residential school behind the two boys in the series’ third volume.

The first volume, Stone, begins on March 25, 2010, with Edwin, an aboriginal teenager.

But soon readers are hearing the story of Stone, from the beginning of the 19th-century.

(Check out the image below for a sample of the artwork. See how the times are fragmented between the branches, the way that the focus moves in and draws out, the sense of a detailed and expansive story through the images.)

“But you should know where you came from…” and so the tale is told.

It is told in English, but parts of the historical sequence are presented as having been translated from Cree, which adds to the verisimilitude, and the story is concerned with universal themes, from childhood friendships and young love, to family and war.

Many of these themes resurface in the later volumes, although the second volume is primarily concerned with disease and survival.

Of course this has a contemporary relevance, but the events unfold in 1870, during the Smallpox Epidemic. (See, there is a connection with Stephen King’s story after all.)

The third volume opens with a flashback to June 10, 1994 (with a childhood memory) and then readers move forward to March 24, 2010 (the day before the first volume begins).

Another flashback to 1964 draws yet another connection between characters, and readers begin to piece together the fabric of the story.


Mid-way through the series, readers can see the threads of the “our past shapes us all” theme, and characters begin to move off the page.

Were these in a bound form, readers would be about halfway through the book, when they begin to sense that the story is gelling.

Perhaps the Seven Generations is not only a broad reference to the experiences of a group of people across that expanse of time, but a more particular focus on seven generations of a specific family. Or perhaps there is really no true distinction to be made there.

The fourth volume of the series is now available. The complete set can be ordered here.

Have you read either of these series? Has another captured your interest lately?

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2014-03-17T14:31:43+00:00

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