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the Complete Review
the complete review - comic book

The Adventures of John Blake

Philip Pullman

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To purchase The Adventures of John Blake

Title: The Adventures of John Blake
Author: Philip Pullman
Genre: Comic
Written: 2017
Length: 156 pages
Availability: The Adventures of John Blake - US
The Adventures of John Blake - UK
The Adventures of John Blake - Canada
Die Abenteuer von John Blake - Deutschland
  • Mystery of the Ghost Ship
  • Illustrated by Fred Fordham

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Our Assessment:

C : thin, underdeveloped, all over the place

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian A 23/5/2017 Rachel Cooke
The NY Times Book Rev. . 18/6/2017 George OíConnor
The Telegraph A 16/6/2017 Tim Martin
TLS . 14/6/2017 Philip Womack

  From the Reviews:
  • "(I)tís fantastic. (...) Fordhamís ligne claire style combined with the sheer pull of the story took me straight back to my Bunty-reading days. However, itís whizzy and modern, too." - Rachel Cooke, The Guardian

  • "His dialogue here is sharp and smart and, yes, adult. The story propels along naturalistically, no small feat given the fantastic world we are entering." - George OíConnor, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(I)tís a knickerbocker glory of genre influences, with a plot that rockets along as though in direct rebuke to the fusty and unprepossessing title. (...) This is smart and swift-moving stuff, and if it doesnít have the exotic thrill of Pullmanís best fantasy work, perhaps it doesnít need to." - Tim Martin, The Telegraph

  • "The different strands are tautly controlled, and Pullman delights in the possibilities of the graphic novel; each frame, in Fred Fordhamís atmospheric drawings, is concise and energized. (...) There is also enjoyment in the sophisticated nods to a cinematic structure which builds up to a final showdown." - Philip Womack, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship features the Mary Alice, a ship that, as the result of an Einsteinian experiment gone wrong, finds itself traveling not only across the high seas but also through time. Young John Blake, the boy in the red shirt. is the son of one of the scientists who was involved in the original 1929 experiment. He was tossed into this time-warped world by the original blast, and along with a crew of seamen from various places and eras -- even ancient Rome -- the ship has, since then, appeared and disappeared in its tell-tale fog in a variety of places and times. Disappointingly, there's little effort to offer much of any (even pseudo-)scientific foundation for this (apparently the solar eclipse helped things along ...), or for how the Mary Alice decides where to go next (and it is, ridiculously, the ship that 'decides': "Mary Alice ... like I said, she has a mind of her own", the ship's Captain Quayle says).
       The ship's existence has come to the attention of some in the present-day world, including Roger Blake, in the employ of Her Majesty's Government -- John's grand-son (who is now older than the boy ...), as well as young widow and Harvard Law School graduate Danielle Quayle Reid (yes, another crew-relative ...), but also Carlos Dahlberg, the tycoon who is like a Steve Jobs-Bill Gates mash-up and who is all set to unveil the updated version of his 'Apparator', an iPhone-like, world-dominating device (that also makes it easy to track its users ...). Dahlberg's interest in John Blake and the ship is hardly mainly scientific; it's also very personal, with Dahlberg having a very good (i.e. very, very bad) reason for needing to get the jr. Blake out of the way. So there's a race of sorts to find and get to the elusive ship.
       The final piece of the story has a ridiculously unprepared Australian family set out on a round-the-world trip on an undersized yacht, with the teenage daughter Serena getting swept overboard and out to sea at pretty much the first storm they encounter (ridiculously, neither she nor her brother were even wearing life jackets). Conveniently, the Mary Alice is on the spot, and John Blake fishes the girl out. They go to reunite her with her family in Fiji, but by that time word about the Mary Alice-sighting has gotten around, and parties good and bad converge, hoping to get to John Blake. There's quite a bit of running around and chasing on dry land, too, but other than Serena hopping back on board the ship at the end of it -- hey, her folks know she's alive and she notes: "you didn't finish telling me what this is all about", so ... -- not too much has changed. ("D'you know how infuriating that is ?" Serena says, about not getting the whole story yet; she doesn't know the half of it, as far as what's infuriating about this sort of story-telling goes .....)
       The final showdown, however, is in San Francisco -- the Mary Alice conveniently remaining in the present-day, but transporting itself halfway around the globe. ("Seems our dear Mary Alice has other plans" is all there is to the (too-)easy 'explanation'.) Will Dahlberg find out the secret behind the ship -- and preserve his own secret ? Will time come to a stop for the Mary Alice or will she drift away again into different times and spaces ? Will Serena become Roger's grandmother -- or maybe she already is ... ? (Hey, everything seems to go here, so why shouldn't that possibility arise ?)
       The conclusion ties up a bit of the story and is presumably meant to be that combination of satisfying and open-ended (allowing for sequel adventures -- though since this is a time-travel-based story, prequels presumably amount to more or less the same thing ...). What happens is as absurd and more or less without foundation as everything else: The Adventures of John Blake is (very) childish fantasy, where pretty much everything, or at least whatever is convenient for the next scene, goes. Perhaps that would be endurable if the story weren't so paper-thin otherwise, too, but, alas ..... The characters and situations are merely sketched and remain as two dimensional as the drawings (which do not help make more of the characters, either).
       The book is nicely produced, on glossy paper, and where Fred Fordham's illustrations focus on color the effect is reasonably good: brownish fog, sepia-colored looks back to 1929 and the two-page spread of John Blake losing touch with his reality, and the reds of one of the final confrontations. Otherwise, the illustrations don't do much for the already so limited story -- with Fordham's human figures (and faces) particularly disappointing.
       Overcrowded, the story far too hurriedly told, and with so little depth to either the characters or the story, The Adventures of John Blake is simply cartoonish, in all the worst ways.

- M.A.Orthofer, 20 July 2017

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The Adventures of John Blake: Reviews: Philip Pullman: Other books by Philip Pullman under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       English author Philip Pullman was born in 1946. He has written numerous highly acclaimed and prize-winning books, mainly for younger readers.

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