September 26, 2014

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Finder: Third World by Carla Speed McNeil

Written and Illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil
Published by Dark Horse Comics


World building is a very particular skill. It requires such a large amount of mind-space and intricate attention to detail that not every creator can do it. A creator must know everything about the world they’re building, from the weirdest of counter-cultures to the biggest of economic problems - and the invented cultures of that world have to pervade every minuscule part of it, just like at home. Few works have really accomplished this – Lord of the Rings, Asterix, Dune, and to some extent, Finder. The world that Carla Speed McNeil has built is massive, with dozens of conflicting locations and cultures and peoples. There is so much room to explore, so many questions to ask and little things to notice and discover.

Third World turns away from the characters of the previous installment, Voice, to follow the goings-on of Jaeger at roughly the same time. He has gotten a straight job as a mail courier, which leads him all over the city and ends up dropping him in a completely different place. Soon, questions start coming up about him and he finds himself uncomfortably close to discovering who and what he really is.

One of the things I really enjoy about Finder in general is the way information is presented. Often with stories that have such intricate worlds a lot of information is given in the form of exposition and seemingly pointless excursions that do lots to provide background information and little to progress the story. In Finder though, McNeil presents the world as if it were the most normal thing - making it feel almost plausible and minimizing the need for suspension of disbelief. It can be confusing sometimes, almost like culture shock, but it feels more natural, more fluid than if the action was stopped to explain every tiny detail. Third World maintains this tradition, and, as always, includes notes in the back for those interested in McNeil’s thought processes and some of the things that are left unexplained.

McNeil's art in Finder is a big part of why I like the series so much. (I have heard it said that she is somewhat derivative of Terry Moore - which I can see the resemblance but I wouldn’t go so far as to say derivative.). I feel like her mastery of expression and body language makes it easy to tell what the creatures of a wide variety of real and imaginary species are feeling and thinking. This continues in Third World, but with one major addition: color.

There are certain things that the color adds to immensely, such as Jaeger’s very particular eye color, and a few that they detract from, like the beauty of certain species. In the beginning, it is fairly easy to see that McNeil was getting just used to color - its quality and the way it works with her line art improves throughout the book. I think that I still prefer the black and white of the previous stories, but I am willing to keep an open mind with upcoming installments.

If you have not read Finder previously, then Third World is not a good place to start. It requires a working knowledge about some of Jaeger’s previous adventures and person, as well as the city he’s occupying and some relationships between characters and tribes within the world. Although I do thoroughly recommend that you find the time to sit down and read Finder, perhaps a better starting point would be Sin-Eater, collected in the first Finder Library omnibus, or even Voice. If you have been reading Finder, and are more or less caught up with Jaeger, then Third World is most likely everything you want it to be and more.