Wed
May 11 2011 11:56am

An SF Classic at a Bargain: The Finder Library: Volume 1 by Carla Speed McNeil

Dark Horse Comics has recently released a big, beautiful brick of a collection of Carla Speed McNeil’s long-running Finder comic—it’s called The Finder Library: Volume 1 and runs nearly 650 pages including extensive endnotes and a cover gallery. That collects three story arcs: “Sin Eater (Parts 1 & 2),” “King of the Cats,” and “Talisman.” Previously, these storylines have been available as trades published by McNeil’s own Lightspeed Press imprint.

Now, you can have them all in one big volume, which makes this collection an excellent jumping-in point for someone who’s managed to miss out on McNeil’s deliciously strange science fiction universe—a world that juxtaposes the tribal and the urban in a decaying, seemingly post-apocalyptic world, mixing tech with privation and hard living, the commoditization of “culture,” and all sorts of other interesting themes. (McNeil has a lot to say about exoticism in Finder, too.)

Finder has a really interesting publication history, which makes me appreciate this collection even more. It began in 1996 as a self-published pamphlet-style comic and continued with the single issue format until nearly the 40th issue, when McNeil switched to the then much-more-viable internet to continue publishing the comic. It’s now one of the biggest webcomics around, nabbing an Eisner for Best Webcomic in 2009. Mostly, it’s deeply cool to me that the comic has run for nearly fifteen years, over a variety of mediums, without losing steam.

Not to mention, that Eisner in 2009 for Best Webcomic is hardly its only award: the rest include seven other Eisner nominations, one Russ Manning award, one Kim Yale Award and two Ignatz Awards. So, yes. Finder is one of those indie-comics success stories and it honestly deserves all the hype. It’s still going strong online with new story-arcs, and a ninth trade, “Voices,” was just published in March 2011.

The first thing to note in the new Dark Horse collection is that you probably don’t want to borrow this from a library or a friend, especially if it looks nice, because you’re inevitably going to break the spine. I say this as a gentle, gentle book-reader, but it’s just impossible to avoid. Partially this is the sheer girth of the collection, which I’m not complaining about, and partially it’s that the art is sometimes a bit small in this format, necessitating close squinty reading with the book spread open on one’s lap. This is not a comic where you can ignore the backgrounds.

This isn’t really a complaint against Dark Horse, because I’m sure if the collection had been packaged in hardcover, it would have cost considerably more than its very reasonable $25. But—for that $25, it’s an excellent deal. Even if you have to break the spine to really read it.

Also, I’m intrigued by the choice to put all of the endnotes at the back instead of having them follow at the end of each arc as they were originally published. I recommend flipping to them at the end of each arc, before you forget what you were curious about. There are a whole lot of references, and a whole lot of super-cool endnotes. Then, read the arc again after the notes. There will be some great “aha!” moments.

Overall, I’m pleased with the price point and content of the collection, and truly glad that a whole new generation of comics readers will be encountering McNeil’s work. Women in comics need to get a better shake, as always, and Carla Speed McNeil is an awesome introduction to the work women are doing in the genre—plus, scifi!

Dark Horse has done a good turn for the industry by collecting these stories. Volume 2 is set to follow in September, and I suspect that there will eventually be a Volume 3 to catch up to the newest stories. I hope the Dark Horse/McNeil partnership continues, so I can keep having these great big collections.


Brit Mandelo is a multi-fandom geek with a special love for comics and queer literature. She can be found on Twitter and Livejournal.

6 comments
mirana
1. mirana
LoveloveloveLOVE Finder. McNeil's work is gooorgeous and her story telling is creative and immersing. I just framed the couple of original pages I got from her last yr at NYCC (she sometimes sells them in her etsy shop too). Her inks are just...omg. Amazing.

If anyone is curious about the rest of the series, her whole self-published set is available in her shop at $10/book ($20 for the hardcover of vol 1 & 2) until they run out (http://shop.lightspeedpress.com/). That is a crazy bargin, since Dream Sequence alone was $17 reg price and a thick, full-sized graphic novel!

Also a note to new readers, the books are fairly self-contained, so you can enjoy them out of order if you like. Including the lastest chapter, Voice, which was also released through DH recently.
mirana
2. Rachel Edidin
Hi--I edit Finder at Dark Horse, and wanted to address your question about the endnotes, because it's something we really agonized over. The deciding factor was ultimately accessibility: while the core audience of the Library editions is Finder fans, we also wanted to make the books accessible and attractive to newcomers, and I was concerned that large blocks of text--the Sin-Eater endnotes alone are more than twenty pages--between stories might be really forbidding to new or casual readers. Given the length of the book, it also seemed like the end notes would be easier to navigate to and from mid-read if they were all in one place rather than scattered through the book.
Brit Mandelo
3. BritMandelo
@Rachel Edidin

Ah, I see - that makes sense. I wasn't particularly grumped about the endnotes being all together, it was just interesting. I can see why, for a new reader, that would be better.

Thanks for the comment, and awesome job on the book!
mirana
4. Leah Bobet
Oh! Thank you, and good to know; I love Finder madly. :)
Brit Mandelo
5. BritMandelo
@Leah Bobet

It is really fun to re-read in a big block. *g*
mirana
6. Scotoma
So far I'm 200 pages into it, and I really don't see the point. Art is okay, but the rest is kinda confused. The story jumps around like crazy, as if the author is trying out something new every ten pages. And the setting is ill-defined and lacks focus. Does it get better or is that really all there is to it?

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