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Far Arden

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Written and drawn by Kevin Cannon

Jul 07, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Kevin Cannon’s Far Arden is an unassuming series of masterstrokes an adventurous yarn that came into fruition from a bet between friends. Steven Stwalley, founder of the International Cartoonist Conspiracy and fellow local cartoonist, challenged Cannon to create one 24-hour comic every month for an entire year. You heard right. That’s a 24-page comic, created during the span of 24 hours. (Check here for more on Far Arden‘s intriguing back-story.) The end result is a handsome 288-page graphic novel, created in twelve caffeine-fueled bursts over the course of a year. Cannon didn’t quite meet the terms of the original agreement: only the first four months’ pages were created in 24-hour chunks. Nevertheless, the comical narrative of a salty seadog and evergreen adventurer, Army Shanks, is relentlessly entertaining.

Throughout the tale, Shanks is searching for the mythical land of Far Arden (Shakespeare famously namedropped it in his pastoral comedy, As You Like It). The writer/artist got the original kernel of a narrative after reading arctic explorers’ journals from the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries and folklore about tropical islands heated by the Earth’s core. It’s that sense of timeworn discovery that propels much of Far Arden. Like his creator, Shanks is on his quest to fulfill a promise to his mentor. Along the way, he encounters his ex-wife, vindictive orphans, a faux treasure map, a golden narwhal, several angry/displaced polar bears, a circus strongman with the Hollywood sign reflecting in his eyes, and lots of double-dealings. Cannon’s first solo novel sees him breaking away from his longtime collaborator at Big Time Attic, Zander Cannon (no relation). On his own, Cannon’s art springs to life with plenty of cartoonish emnatas (a total of 272) and witty dialog for male and female characters. His spindly post-clear-line characters may act like expressive marionettes but they are multi-faceted once you get past Cannon’s hyper-active narrative pace. Arden was originally posted on Cannon’s website, and the entire story can be found here, for free. But the print version is highly recommended for any comic fan. (www.kevincannon.org)

Author rating: 7/10

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