by Leeann Hamiliton
When it comes to reading a self-published comic by an emerging talent a touch of wariness can creep into your expectations about the title. It’s a tough feat for anyone – no matter his/her experience – to do everything successfully for a comic book title.
Happily, Leeann Hamiliton’s first two comics in her Finn & Fish cycle prove that this young woman can indeed do it all.
As a fan of mythological stories I was excited by her premise: a comedic view of the Irish myths about Finn McCool (Fionn Mac Cumhaill), which features the Salmon of Knowledge as Finn’s sidekick, evoked through a Manga style.
Part of the humour of the story is how Hamiliton pitches this duo. The Salmon appears as a ghostly apparition that emerges from Finn’s forehead, and prompts Finn into all kinds of trouble. The question is, who is in charge? As it reads on the inside cover, Finn is described as ‘Giant of Legend. Now underprivileged brat pestered by smart fish.’
The first issue is the origin story, which is told in a series of flashbacks, handled deftly. Thus we discover that Finn was raised to be a warrior, but was rejected from the King’s Guard because of his lack of ability as a poet. He takes up with the scholar Finnegas, which leads to his inadvertent acquisition of the abilities of prophet and poet from the Salmon of Knowledge.
It’s the Salmon that urges Finn to find a girlfriend (for poetic inspiration), which introduces us to Sabh, who is sometimes a woman and sometimes a deer. Sabh is literally a doe-eyed woman who seems as much in love with the Salmon as she is with Finn.
The second issue deals with Finn’s first quest: to subdue the Fairy Aillen, who burns down Tara regularly after lulling everyone to sleep with a song. Finn – reluctantly – takes on the task especially as he must imbibe poison to resist the Fairy’s music.
Since I’m familiar with Irish myth I knew the main storylines, but I thought in a couple of places Hamiliton wasn’t exactly clear about the relationships. On the inside cover Sabh is described as the Mother of Oisín, instead of Finn’s girlfriend (and I’m never too keen on women being described only in regards to their relationship to men). Since Finn has the gift of prophecy he sees occasional images of the future, including his son with Sabh, Oisín, but Oisín is never identified by name in any of his amusing cameos.
It’s a minor problem, and one that could be easily rectified if the issues are reprinted, or when they are collected into a graphic novel. It highlights the difficulties of being one’s own editor.
Otherwise, Hamiliton’s début is remarkably clever – the dialogue is funny and smart, and her artwork is impressive. Her panels layouts are strong and interesting with terrific lettering and sound effects. The action scenes in issue two are dynamic, and I particularly liked how Finn climbs up the Salmon’s ghostly trail for a smack-down on Aillen – it’s a quintessential Manga moment.
Traditionalists might have some problems with Hamilton’s spin and choice of spelling, but most importantly she hews to the spirit of the stories while infusing them with a fresh, entertaining perspective. The comics would be a perfect introduction to excite young people about Irish mythology.
Based on these two comics I expect Hamiliton could easily establish a career in the comic book industry, and anyone looking for new talent would be well advised to seek her out now.