I wish more comics were written like this– novels instead of unending or sometimes overlong serials. All my favorite comics have endings– Preacher, Sandman, Y the Last Man– but their story structure is often marked by traits of the unending series– wild shifts in perspective to other characters so the writer has time to get it together with the protagonist, the wittholding of mysteries well past the point of interest– and this can work– the shifts in perspective especially. But it’s a different experience reading something like From Hell or Hard Boiled, which can be contained in one book instead of numbered volumes. Reading a tight, focused story in comic book form is a rare experience, and that’s exactly what Sailor Twain is.
Sailor Twain is the story of Captain Elijah Twain and also the womanizing owner of the steamboat Lorelei, Lafayette. Captain Twain is happily married to a sweet invalid, Pearl– or at least he wants to be happily married. He is put off by Lafayette’s womanizing ways, but there is more to his behavior than there seems to be.
The story is set into motion when Twain discovers a wounded mermaid aboard his ship, and it is really the mermaid that makes this story. Every character in this story is nuanced and conflicted and reveals more layers as the story goes on, but the mermaid is confounding. Spooky, strangely magic, and animalistic, I haven’t seen a mythical character done so well in a long time. Most mythical characters are too human or to animalistic these days– things like vampires and zombies and werewolves are done so often we’ve become too used to strangeness. Seigel’s mermaid is truly otherworldly, however, and it was she who compelled me above any of the characters rotating around her.
The art is, frankly, not on my wavelength. I can see how people would like it– the smokiness contributes to the atmosphere of the story, but it’s just not as good as the story is. I would definitely recommend it to comic book fans and anyone with a passing interest in mythology, folk tales, or the fantastical. If you want to check it out the first few chapters are up at http://sailortwain.com — beware, it will suck you in.