Long John Silver Volume 2 – more dark brilliance on the high seas
Long John Silver Volume 2: Neptune
By Xavier Dorison and Mathieu Lauffray
Long John Silver Volume 1 would have easily made it onto my best of 2010 list, but by the time I’d read it and reviewed it, it was just too late.
However I can confidently state now that the series will almost definitely be on my best of 2011 list. It’s simply a magnificently good series, beautifully plotted, a real page turner, with every good feature of a big budget movie packed into some exquisitely drawn comic pages.
Here’s just some of what I said in the review of Volume 1:
“It’s no straight continuation of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic, that would have been far too easy. Instead we get something wonderful, something completely unexpected and yet another Cinebook title I’ll be eagerly looking forward to the next volume. I absolutely loved it.”
“It’s a simply wondrous, hugely enjoyable book. The characters are so effortlessly amoral, so believably real in a deliciously pantomime manner. But beneath the effortless adventure and the plentiful enjoyment to be had in some very strongly crafted characters there’s a real steel, as Dorison delights in revisiting some of the key philosophical themes that Stevenson addressed in the original.”
“And all the way through Lauffray’s art, whether looking Eisner-ish, Adams-ish or simply Lauffray-ish, is a little special. Lauffray pulls off some beautiful, breathtaking scenes and effortlessly captures the spirit of the times and the multifaceted nature of these incredible characters.”
In Volume 1 Lord Hastings’ discovery of the fabled city of gold; Guiana-Capac, required the liquidation of his family fortune to fund his Amazonian adventure, and left his estranged wife Lady Vivian Hastings facing ruin and worse.
But Lady Vivian is no weak willed little woman. She’s written, quite brilliantly by Dorison, as some Les Liaisons Dangereuses style, amoral, manipulative, and Machiavellian schemer. And this complex, complicated woman comes up with a plan of her own that ends Volume 1 with her on board the Neptune headed for the Amazon and countless riches, in league with Long John Silver who has his pirates making up part of the crew.
(Lady Vivian onboard before the troubles really start – and a lovely dialogue piece “You have always been gifted at following well travelled routes” to her brother-in-law, no stranger to her wiles. Sharp, manipulative and destined for no end of trouble. From Long John Silver Volume 2 by Dorison and Lauffrat – of whom we can now add Tim Sale to the multiple influences I can see in his beautiful pages.)
Volume 2 begins twenty five days and 1000s of leagues out to sea later, where the plan she hatched on dry land; to get rid of her husband, rescue her name, her title and obtain the gold for herself, doesn’t seem quite so easy to achieve at sea on the Neptune.
Her biggest problem is that she has to rely on Long John Silver, a man with his own dark plans and motivations, to wrest control of the ship. And whilst she had the power on dry land, it’s Silver who holds the power at sea.
But Silver doesn’t have the men to take over the ship, and the Captain doesn’t trust him. So the ship becomes a slow burning powder keg, waiting for a reason to explode into mutiny.
(The Captain and Silver play a tension filled waiting game, neither trusting the other, both men know the ship is poised to explode.)
Things start to go very wrong early on, when Silver decides to get rid of Lady Vivian’s trecherous maid before she can Lady Vivian to the Captain, and finally explodes when the Captain decides to make an example of young Jack Hawkins – the one chink in Silver’s steel. Events spiral out of control, the blood flows, and no-one, not Silver, not Lady Vivian, is totally in control of events anymore. Where it all ends we’ll find out in future volumes.
Just as Volume 1 was wonderful for the exquisitely realised character of Lady Vivian, this volume switches it’s focus to Silver himself. And he’s just as well realised, just as manipulative and devious here at sea as lady Vivian was on dry land. He’s no lightweight rogue here, but a brute of a man; callous, cunning, capable of all manner of dark deeds and willing to sacrifice almost anyone to get his way.
(Silver finally shows his hand, forced into action after death strikes his crew.)
Long John Silver Volume 2 is a sublime continuation of the series, that takes the oh so perfect setup from Volume 1 and keeps going, fast and furious yet with a refined control. It’s a page turner, but one you also want to linger over. This dichotomy creates something really readable, literate yet pulpy, a potboiler of an adventure with a solid moral edge worthy of Stevenson’s best characters.
Or to put it more simply – it’s up there with Largo Winch, XIII and Chimpanzee Complex as one of the best books I’ve read so far from Cinebook. But more than this, I just can’t see there being ten books more enjoyable than Long John Silver this year. It’s practically nailed on to the best of 2011 list already.
Volume 3; The Emerald Maze is due from Cinebook in October 2011. It’s far, far too long to wait. Worse still, the fourth and final volume in the series; Guyanacapac hasn’t been published at all as yet. It’s going to be a terribly, terribly long wait, but based on these first two volumes – it’s going to be well worth the wait.