(Mickey and the Lost Ocean)
Writer : Denis-Pierre Filippi
Artist : Silvio Camboni
Year : 2018
Publisher : Glénat (The review is based on the original French edition)
A Mickey who could be anybody else yet, things being the way they are, ends up representing a character in an adventure which has less in common with the world(s) we are familiar with. In other words, an adventure that is not completely based on the mythology of the American mouse (and his cohort), but that functions as a universe in and of itself. It is a place where imagination is given ample space and freedom or, rather, where the writer and the artist are allowed to do whatever they want.
Yet, we, exactly as adults (the writer of this article is nearing four decades of life on this globe), manage to gain more than what we might have come to expect from the world of comic books. This ocean, to be sure, is not only a feast for our eyes, it is also that kind of adventure that lifts our spirits as the story unfolds in front of us.
What to say, then, about the structure upon which all seems to build itself up, towards the genuine peaks that we call masterpieces (minor or major, this is not the problem to discuss here, but to be left to a re-reading and a re-appreciation in the perhaps not too distant future, as classics need time to become – and be called – so)?
Our trio – Mickey, Minnie and Goofy – are explorers and inventors in a world that has been devastated by a catastrophe we are never going to learn how it came to be. Pete is the villain who we are never sure about. Is he really evil, simply a scoundrel, or is he good enough to be called an anti-hero, perhaps showing too much love towards himself (and the glory he’d like to bask in, just as the riches he wants to lay his hands on)?
The characterization, then, does not seem to differ from what we already know about them; is there something more, so, than just the usual suspects in a different setting?
Let’s go back to the structure, then, and ask the book to tell us what kind of story it wants to tell. Good versus evil, honesty against treachery. Been there, done that? All the opposite, as the blueprint of this clash of opposite viewpoints does not detract from the overall cleverness of the story as it builds itself up through tiny details that manage to make us wonder what is going to happen next.
Here, in fact, is where the reader cannot say, before opening the first page, what the content is going to be, apart from the usual (let us repeat it again) “good must prevail”. The magnificence of the art, therefore, is not there to make up for a lack of content. The pencil drawing the panel is led to its abundance of beauty by a skilful use of the technique of structuring a story so that the unexpected is such that we are caught by surprise, even though the territory might (and, sometimes, it does) look familiar.
The ending, regarding the actual story, might seem rushed, as if not enough time (that is, pages) was given to lead to a satisfying conclusion. At first, there’s little denying that it all appears to finish abruptly, yet, if we delve deeper into what is actually being presented to us, it becomes quite clear that it is actually a glimpse into a fraction of the many adventures of these characters.
There is no space for a work of epic proportions, the total pages being a bit less than sixty, meaning that necessity was such the adventure could not go on forever. This problem, which might seem to be a weak point, is deftly turned upside down by writer Denis-Pierre Filippi so that this limit is found to be consistent with the general tone of the book. Let us state it again, this is not the trio’s only adventure, this is just one instance of the things they have done and will probably keep on doing in the future (that is, their universe).
The symbiotic element between art and story is therefore apparent as the story has us move from the freezing world of perennial snow to the tranquility of a harbour, from the moving laboratory of a (perhaps not so) mad scientist to the lustrous green of a forest. We get lost in the world (and in the story’s world-building) and hope never to be taken away from it. We are left wanting more, surely, but also satisfied for having been made privy to an adventure the likes of which seem hard to come by.
The ocean, lost as the title says, thus symbolizes the depth to which we are ready to descend to find tales that still manage to make us feel good just by the way they are narrated, both by words and by pencils.