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Crater XV Hardcover – July 2, 2013
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*Starred Review* What’s a retired Arctic seaman like Army Shanks, reeling from the grim ending of Far Arden (2009), to do, besides grow his beard out and get a bit odd? But just as he decides to punch a ticket to Antarctica and oblivion, a slew of seemingly unrelated events conspire to yank him back into the role of reluctant hero. And even though it all takes place in and around various sea ships, it’s an entirely different sort of vessel that creates all the ruckus when a Russian tanker arrives in Canadian waters to set up the launch of a moon rocket. Meanwhile, Army bumps into a young Newfoundlander raising money to fund a trip to Jupiter’s moon, Europa, and a pair of astronauts living in seclusion in a simulated moon base right here on Devon Island near the end of their 20-year training mission. It’s all completely ridiculous, in the most sublime sense of the word. Cannon’s style is crisper, glossier, and more assured than in Far Arden, and he’s taken his signature spelled-out sound effects-actions to a new stratosphere of silliness: “toss in the drink!”; “duck inside some sort of supply closet.” But it’s not all gags, as he wrings tremendous tension, action, and intrigue out of his many-stranded plot, and the dozen-strong constellation of major characters each have deep emotional stakes on the line. But none more so than Shanks. And if this is his last chantey, there’s reason to mourn. --Ian Chipman
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Crater XV picks up right where Far Arden left off. Cannon has created a lovable main character in Army Shanks. He is a super hero, a savior of girls and women, a friend to the orphans, he risks life and limb to fight for what he believes in, he is like no other, and most importantly, he is fun to read about and follow on his misadventures. You're in for a wild ride to the moon and back or at least to Crater XV and back.
A lot of Crater XV is based on the real race to space by the Soviets and the Americans. Cannon's graphic novel called T-Minus: The Race to the Moon, inspired some of the plot of Crater XV. I love a graphic novel that is not only fun and entertaining to read but one that also teaches me a little history and this one does both. Canadians in the space race, who knew?
If you like graphic novels, you will love Crater XV. Crater XV is well drawn, well written and it is enjoyable to read. Cannon is an excellent cartoonist and well known for his detailed drawings. The artwork in Crater XV is similar to Far Arden, and done in black and white with intricate detail.
If it all sounds madcap and zany, it is. At times it feels like a Marx Brothers comedy with a great deal of swashbuckling and saving the day thrown in for good measure. There's an International summit, and the Canadian Arctic Space Agency, or CASA (a completely made up agency) attempts to launch a rocket to the moon first to beat the Siberians.
The art by Kevin Cannon is fabulous, with lots of great black and white detail and the story is hilarious, and touching and sad. You don't need to read Far Arden first (I didn't), but you will probably want to after meeting the mighty Army Shanks. Highly recommended.