fantasy and science fiction book reviewsMap of Days by Robert Hunter

MAP OF DAYSI’ve recently become a fan of Nobrow Press: They put out unique, and often small, runs of graphic novels that stand out as special works of art because of the high level of paper, binding, and printing techniques. Each graphic novel is sized differently to suit best the artwork inside, and the printing technique reminds me of William Blake’s illuminated manuscripts. Each book stands out and looks and even feels unlike any comic book or graphic novel I’ve ever seen.  Map of Days by Robert Hunter is an excellent example of Nobrow’s high standards of material and presentation of that art.

The verbally and visually poetic prologue to Map of Days would make a worthy little graphic novel on its own. The prologue is a somewhat cryptic creation story told as a parable about nine siblings, particularly one that fell in love with the sun. However, the story gains greater complication after the prologue when one finds out that the sibling is somehow trapped inside an enormous grandfather clock owned by the narrator’s grandfather. I know the term “magical realism” is overused to describe postmodern fiction, but I think it works well in this case: The story is both magical metaphor and mundane reality, impossibly both simultaneously.

map of days 3The plot is bizarre but straight-forward: A young boy tells of visiting his grandfather each summer. His grandfather, who maintained many grandfather clocks that he wound every day, is a mysterious figure. Our narrator sees him climb out of one of the clocks one day and decides to sneak into the clock later on. The rest of the story involves the boy’s adventures inside the clock and the way the world inside the clock ultimately has an impact on our world.

I lack words to describe the beautiful artwork and colors, but this anecdote speaks volumes: When I showed a stack of Nobrow Press books to a group of college students, they all gravitated to this particular volume because of its dramatic colors. It engages the reader visually before he gets the chance to read even a single word. A representative example of the creative manner in which narrative is conveyed visually is when, early in the story, our narrator as a grown man makes his way down to the sea. He tells us, “When the sea meets my feet it reminds me of when I was young.” Visually, we see the man’s feet on the sand at the edge of the water. As we visually read the panels, the adult’s legs in jeans turn into a boy’s bare legs sticking out of a bathing suit near the edge of a pool. At no point do we see the man’s or the boy’s face. I love the way we are visually transported back in time, the way we are shown that this story of childhood is told from the perspective of a grown man.

There are many more examples of creative visual storytelling that I could give, but I think the main point is that the book changes techniques from page-to-page, rarely relying on the same method. It’s an incredibly engaging work, and it’s one I plan to reread many times. I consider it a rare treasure in my large library of comics and graphic novels. If you’ve been looking for something new and completely different from any other book you own, you’ll want to get a copy of Map of Days for your own personal library. You’ll also want to seek out other works put out by Nobrow Press


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.