Philip Pullman, the creative mind behind The Golden Compass and the His Dark Materials Series, has a new graphic novel coming out in June - The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship. Is it worth picking up? Our review should answer that question.
The story is about the Mary Alice, a ghost ship trapped in time and forced to travel to different centuries with the crew not knowing where or when they'll turn up next. During a powerful storm, an unfortunate Australian girl called Serena is knocked overboard from her small family boat and is rescued by John Blake, a crew member of the Mary Alice. The rest of the crew work on trying to bring Serena back to her own time, but in doing so will leave themselves in danger from the Dahlberg Corporation who are hunting the Mary Alice for nefarious reasons.
There are a few problems with the story, namely in that too much is given away throughout the story. You learn pretty quickly about connections between characters on the Mary Alice and other characters, like the secret agent hunting the ship who just so happens to have the last name Blake, like the title character. There's a comment made between the two, right near the end, that would have had a huge impact if readers didn't already know quite clearly how they are related. There was a lot of plot and at times too much is given away. Pullman clearly wanted to get the backstory in and out of the way, but some things were best left to find out later on.
Dahlberg also had the potential to be a much bigger character, which was ultimately a let down. If there is to be a second book, he could have been a huge character going forward with the resources and reach to continually cause the Mary Alice and her crew problems.
Those problems aside, it's an interesting story that thankfully doesn't delve too much into how the ship can time travel. Trying to explain that is always a potential issue, so was pleasing to see how the ship can do it shied away from as a "we don't know either" kind of deal. Some mysteries are best left alone. There was an experiment that caused it, but how it works is anyone's guess. How it should be.
Fred Fordham's art is nice for the most part. Some panels can make the characters look a little flat, but in general the panels are full of detail and include some stunning pieces - a particular favourite was a full page panel conveying the depth of the sea when Serena falls in. There's really not much to the page at all, but it still looked incredible. The action scenes are gorgeous and the attention to detail on the city streets and the small details on the ship more than make up for any short comings on the characters.
Whilst it's clear that the story isn't finished yet, it's unclear where the story will go from here. So much is given away in the story, it could easily not have a second book; maybe that was the intention. As a standalone book, there's enough about it to give it a 4/5 rating. It's good, but definitely missing something, and too much is given away early on which drops it short of being a truly great book from a brilliant writer.