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The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c

The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c

The Encyclopedia Of Early Earth h/c back

Isabel Greenberg


Page 45 Review by Stephen

In the beginning there was a boy and a girl and they loved each other very much.

She lived at the South Pole, he came from the North, and they do say that opposites attract. Unfortunately due to a small, inexplicable quirk of physics they found they couldn’t touch. Even the wise Shaman of the south couldn’t explain it, but the girl believed so profoundly in the overwhelming power of their love – that it could conquer all – that they married all the same. They slept together yet kept apart, finding a way to feel the warmth of each other.

“Each morning they would get up and swap sides of the bed. That way they could lay their heads in the impression the other had made in the pillow. And for a few fleeting moments, until the pillows cooled and the warmth faded, it was almost as though they were holding each other.”

Have you ever read anything more romantic in your life? Isabel draws a ghost of the couple holding each other between the reality of their separately sleeping selves. It’s all right if you want to cry.

“So the days became weeks, and the weeks became years, and still the magnetic force did not relent. They spent hours staring into each other’s eyes. And yet still they could not so much as brush fingertips.”

So instead, during the freezing cold nights, they tell each other stories into small hours of the morning. And this is the story that the man tells his wife, beginning with the Three Sisters Of Summer Island…

Of course, that wasn’t the beginning at all. It was just how this story began and what follows is a series of stories within stories – some of which you may find strangely familiar – which explain how the world came to be, how the man came to the woman and, oh yes, that strange quirk of physics which proves no mere quirk at all!

The irony of it all is that the two genuine lovers find themselves if not poles apart then at least a good foot or two, whereas so much of what follows involves rival siblings who should love each other causing so much conflict through competition. Kid and Kiddo are the funniest. They’re the children of the Eagle God BirdMan who forbids them to interfere with mortals (so you know what inevitably happens) yet takes great delight himself in the plight of two brothers, Dag and Hal, which won’t end well at all – not for them or for an entire population for hundreds of years to come.

“We can have some fun with this.”

… says the Eagle God Birdman, staring down at the world through his scrying pool which happens to be one of several bathtubs.

It’s all so wonderfully absurd, like the agoraphobic Mapmaker who entrusts his cartography to monkeys. Also, Greenberg takes great delight in puncturing the solemnity of her epic storytelling with modern mischief, as when the Nords are invaded by pillaging, helmeted Strangers who high-five each other…

“Lads lads lads! Waaaay!”

… before repelling them…

“Oh bloody Hell! Run, lads!”

As to the art, it is a joy, joy, joy. Initially and instinctively I thought of EPILEPTIC’s David B, but it has a far lighter touch and its roots go much further back to the early days of print when naturalistic perspective had either been lost or abandoned and figures were far more representational. I wouldn’t have it any other way, for the landscapes here are bursting with folklore character and the quality cream stock does it all full justice. Also, I am big fan of water and there is water, water everywhere, either in inky darkness or washed in blue with some of the most beautiful ripples I have ever beheld. Overwhelmingly Isabel goes light on the colours so that when they’re deployed in deepest scarlet or a light, cornfield yellow they really make their presence felt.

This is an astonishing debut, and the best graphic novel I’ve read so far this year. Normally I pronounce this rather recklessly in March but hey, you know, it’s October.

In summary what you’re in for is an epic journey and a great many struggles in the wake of adversity – a lot of which come from on high: gods interfering with mortals as ever it was in the legends of Greek mythology, SANDMAN etc. You’ll read so many tall tales, some of which provide currency, others proving life-savers, each told with such charm, warmth, humour and authority that I believe every single one of them! Even those about Kid and Kiddo who, inadvertently, created the world we all live in.

“We’re so awesome I basically can’t cope!”

You wait until Dad finds out.