By Yumemakura Baku and Jirô Taniguchi
Oh hell. It was back in May 2012 that I posted up a preview of the third volume of Summit Of The Gods with these words:
“Beautiful. Just beautiful. I’ve just read all 45 pages of the preview. Just that first chapter is by far the best thing I’ve read this month. Masterpiece is something bandied around too often, but in this case I think it’s justified.”
I should apologise to you and to myself for not getting around to this before now. Because waiting this long to read this third instalment of something this good is practically sado-masochistic.
Each volume of Summit may be 300 pages plus, but it’s a read in one sitting book, and not a fast read either. The pages turn, some fast, some slow, but the eyes are taking everything in, controlled majestically by the ability of writer and artist to pace their tale. Masterpiece.
But that’s only true to me with a print copy. Ponent Mon kindly sent an advance copy via pdf, but as much as I wanted to I simply couldn’t get into the long-form digital reading experience, hence the long, long delay. Having it as a pdf is no substitute for me to having the print volume in my hands. In the end I simply gave in, moved on to the next thing on the reading list and determined to get the print copy. Which I finally did over Christmas. And straight away, once I picked it up, we were back to the read in a single sitting experience. The masterpiece is still a masterpiece, I was just reading it in the wrong format. Maybe you can do long-form comics on screen, I obviously can’t.
Seriously, it is a masterpiece, story and art all delivering something wonderful, something unbelievably epic in the manner in which Baku and Taniguchi show us men throwing themselves at mountains that simply fills me with admiration and awe. But on top of all that epic wonder, they also create intense beauty and stunning excitement.
This is the tale of Everest, of the obsessional lengths men went to to conquer it, and of the mystery of the 1924 expedition by Mallory and Irvine, who vanished on the North-East ridge of the mountain, but o-one has been able to conclusively prove whether they vanished on their way to the peak, or on a descent after standing where no men have ever stood before.
To add to the mystery, there’s a camera, a camera that Mallory took on his ascent, a camera that has never been found, but a camera that could hold the key to the mystery:
So this volume we’re following photographer Fukamachi once more, searching for the answers to the mystery of Mallory’s camera, a mystery that seems wrapped up in the past, present, and future of the mysterious and legendary climber Habu Joji, currently vanished somewhere in Nepal..
This volume may open with that dazzling and exciting climbing sequence of the British attempt of 1920 for Everest’s summit I’ve previously told you about (yes, still unbelievably exciting) but the focus here is more on looking at Habu, with Fukamachi uncovering more and more of what drives him, what made him the man he is today, and gives us an idea of just how driven, dedicated, and absolutely single minded a human being can become.
But this is no simple retelling of a life-story, Baku and Taniguchi put so much more into this book than a simple linear plot of the journalist researching a storyline. Fukamachi gets to uncover a little too much of Kathmandu’s darker side, there’s kidnapping, an incredible rescue by Habu, the incredibly evocative background to Nepal, a short history of the Gurhka Regiment, intensely personal moments and more along the way including the connection between Habu, Everest, and Mallory’s camera. I’ll divulge no more than that. But seriously… wow.
And then there’s the epic scale of the story. No matter what route we seem to go down, no matter how long we’re following a fascinating diversion, there’s always that point somewhere in Summit, often several times, where the sheer enormity, the sheer awe-inspiring nature of what these men do, what some men may have done, what one man wants to do, where it hits you like a train, steals your breath away and makes you realise that masterpiece is a perfect one word review for this. If you want two word reviews just go with “epic masterpiece”.
The next volume will hopefully be released from Ponent Mon in 2013, but if you haven’t already experienced the wonder of the first three there’s a preview of the first chapter of Volume 3 at the Fanfare site.