Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Captive of Friendly Clove

I'm not shy about my love for sea adventure, but you may not know that I'm also a huge fan of stories about indigenous people, especially of North America. Not that I'm claiming to be a valuable or even that well informed an ally, but I've always felt a lot of empathy for Native Americans since I was a kid watching Westerns and recognized that most of the time I wasn't getting both sides of the story. I've been hungry for the Native perspective ever since. A couple of my favorite graphic novels so far on the subject have been George O'Connor's Journey into Mohawk Country and the Graphic Classics anthology Native American Classics (which I reviewed for School Library Journal). Time to add to that list with Rebecca Goldfield and Mike Short's Captive of Friendly Cove.

Captive of Friendly Cove has a lot in common with Journey into Mohawk Country. Both are taken from the journals of real life Europeans who interacted with Native Americans, both were heavily researched to get their visual details right, and both are utterly engrossing. Where Captive differs from Journey is its willingness to add to the narrative of its original author. In addition to John Jewitt's notes, Rebecca Goldfield also visited the Mowachaht people who currently inhabit what was once called Friendly Cove to hear their interpretation of Jewitt's story. As Goldfield explains in her preface, "I combined all I learned from as many sources as possible, but mostly stayed close to John's point of view. In the end, I also relied on my imagination as to what life there might have looked and felt like back then. Adding my ideas and words to his, I tried to keep the spirit of John alive."

I like that approach. Without knowing exactly where Jewitt's original words end and the other voices begin, I imagine that Captive is a more balanced tale for the effort. Not that I suppose Jewitt's version made him out to be a hero. If Captive captures anything of Jewitt's voice (and there's every reason to believe it does), then he was decidedly non-heroic. He was a good and kind man, but also capable of cowardice and deception. He was willing to make great compromises to stay alive once he was captured by the Mowachaht and made a slave of their chief.

Jewitt's story of capture and survival would be dramatic enough, but it's deepened by a couple of additional layers. One is the desire of the chief Maquinna for Jewitt to assimilate into the tribe, which clashes with Jewitt's desire to keep separate as he holds on to hope for rescue and an eventual return to his own people. The other layer of drama comes from a second prisoner from Jewitt's ship: an older man named Thomas who doesn't share Jewitt's reluctance to upset his captors. Thomas' attitude is more "live free or die," and that creates a great deal of tension as Jewitt tries to keep them both alive.

I don't want to give too much away, but even though I didn't agree with many of Jewitt's decisions, I was captivated by his story and wanted a happy ending for him. More than that though, I learned a lot about the Mowachaht from the early 19th century, which was what I hoped for. That's as much due to Mike Short's images as to Jewitt and Goldfield's words. He gives life to the story and tells it in a clear and compelling way. He's aided by impressive inks from Matt Dembicki and a gorgeous color palette from Evan Keeling that brings to the page very nicely the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Fortunately, you don't have to take my word for the art though. Fulcrum Publishing sent me the first chapter of Captive of Friendly Cove with permission to reveal it here for the first time. Take a look below and if you like what you see, it's available at IndieBound, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books-A-Million.

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book for review.

Read the rest of the chapter after the break.

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