Writer: David Lumsden
Cover: Amir Zand
Atwork and Letters: Marc Olivent
Additional Letters: Andrei Staruiala
At the end of last year, David Lumsden dropped the fourth installment in his critically acclaimed ‘Boat’ creation. What initially started out as a short film that focused on a young boy and his father restricted to their boat as they search for a place to call home, has turned into a five issue graphic novel series that has already released three exceptional volume’s. For those that know me, I have been a huge fan of this series and it topped my list of indie releases a couple of years ago. So, how does the fourth issue hold up in the series?
Let’s recap the story shall we; Volume 1 introduced us to this grim, post-apocalyptic world that has been re-taken by the water, due to a post-flood event. This was a stripped back story of survival that focused on our lead character Charlie and his father, as they navigated this new world for food and land. Volume 2 introduced new characters and rivalries into the story as Charlie’s arrival causes paranoia in an already broken society. What began as a slow burning pace picks up into race for for survival in Volume 3, as Charlie’s status as an outsider leads him to face judgment from the people of No Man’s Land and is sent to face the danger that lurks beneath the water.
Which leads us to Volume 4. Following the comics preceding it, the story jumps between two points in time: The present, Charlie’s time with the paranoid citizens off No Land, and the past, which takes place many years previously when Charlie was a young boy in his boat trying to survive the harsh world. The latter of these culminate in a heart wrenching loss and many risks that have most likely shaped Charlie into the man he is today.
As the penultimate issue, it manages to strike a delicate balance between bringing these two points in time up to date and it’s a good thing that this is currently the largest issue. Writer David has said, “I wanted to take my time with the story as I wanted to tie up a lot of areas in the narrative, particularly the ‘Then’ story arc with young Charlie. I wanted to fill in this large part of his past and answer a lot of questions bringing the story up to date before moving on to the final book“. The story certainly benefits from these extra pages, as this gives David even more chance to build unease and tension across the pages as the events of the previous issue have affected the already unstable alliance between the two warring factions off No Land, as one side wants Charlie to leave and the other want him dead. Coverage for both groups of survivors gives additional characters and plot-threads their time in the limelight with a struggle for survival, explosive revenge, and action that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Heavy emphasis is also placed on the consequences of Charlie’s past in this issue too as the events off his time alone begin to unfold, and the weight off his past actions begin to catch up with him. For a story that has been about survival and the desire to find a place to call home, it’s a sobering moment to watch as Charlie has to let go off what he has found so he can finally face the shadows that he has been running from. As each plot-thread from both narratives begin to come together to what seems to be inevitable showdowns, there are moments that will leave the reader in shock as both the past and the present are delivered major blows that result in devastating losses that feel like punch to the gut. With that being said, David manages to get the right characterization to support the pacing. As the issue progresses there are some touching moments between characters, that reminds you that this has always been a story of humanity and there are glimmers of hope in the darkness.
Marc Olivent once again brings his polished and slick art work to the series. The grim reality of this world has always been reflected in the black and white slab panels and heavy shading, which give the impression off a world that has lost all it’s vibrancy, and you can see the desperation and sheer distress from the characters coming from the pages. The lettering is also tight and consistent which let’s the artwork continue to shine and props has to be giving to Amir Zand for another eye catching cover, which in itself is interesting creative choice. The block red and black colors from previous issues have been replaced with a more subtle water color palette, with a small sliver of light in amongst the dark. One key theme of the series has always been about finding the light in darker moments. Whether this was an intentional decision by the creative team or not, it’s something that I liked. Another interesting thing to keep an eye out for during this issue are the little nods to famous Scottish landmarks and Edinburgh history, with David saying that he ‘wanted to add in Scottish locations that mean something to me’. It’s an interesting choice and it highlights the amount of detail that has gone into building this world.
This fourth book begins to bring together the already solid groundwork that has been established in the previous installments and provides enough room for everything to come together before the final issue. The additional pages allowing tension and unease to be built as the issue progresses, with both narratives leading to dramatic and inevitable moments that will keep anxiously waiting for what happens next. With the remaining survivors ready to move on, Charlie must stay behind and face the shadows from his past that will continue to hunt him down, as the last few pages offer up a moment that gives you the need to read the next chapter to see how it all ends. As the penultimate issue, there is a lot more action and moments that keep you on the edge of your seat, but there are still the subtle and touching moments that David weaves into the narrative, which are able to see the light in the darker themes of the book and offer up hope in an otherwise bleak world.