Comic/Graphic Novel, Historical Fantasy, Adventure
Comic/Graphic Novel readers, Children, Teens, Adults
Catholic comic books, Irish monks, St. Michael, Historical Fantasy, Adventure, Monks, Star Wars, Jedi, Revenge, Protecting the innocent, Quest, hermits, farmboy to warrior
What if that ancient Jedi island temple was real? Well, it kinda is! Finnian and the Seven Mountains Volume 1 opens a new historical fantasy comic book series with a young ninth-century hero travelling to the real island of Skellig Michael and meeting the monks who live there.
In ninth-century Ireland, Finnian’s parents have installed him as an unwilling novice at an abbey. When they and their entire village are slaughtered by marauding Vikings, Finnian leaves the abbey, vowing to take revenge. To do this, he sets off in search of a mythical sword with the power to defeat evil. He travels to the island of Skellig Michael, but finds an order of hermit monks led by a wise and holy leader—and no sign of the sword. The holy abbot sets Finnian to work and pray with the monks until he can be returned to the mainland. Finnian gradually finds peace, and his desire for revenge changes to a desire to protect other villages from the Vikings. But how can he do that without the legendary sword? Is there a clue on the island, and will God reveal it to him before he has to leave?
This first installment of a new comic book series cleverly blends Christian themes with a fantasy quest plot, all with a strong ‘Star Wars’ feel. Perfect as an appetite-wetter both for the series and for Christianity, this book can appeal to both secular and religious readers.
The island in Finnian and the Seven Mountains Volume 1, Skellig Michael, may be familiar to readers from the latest trilogy of Star Wars films, where it captivated many viewers with its natural, ethereal beauty (towering rocky green peaks rising through mist from the sea); and its intriguing history (visible in the patchwork of ancient paths and beehive huts, and one fleeting glimpse of a Celtic stone cross). It made an excellent setting for a ruined Jedi temple in the film series—but it is historically the site of an isolated community of real monks! Finnian and the Seven Mountains Volume 1 shows the island as it was actually inhabited. At the end, the book includes interesting information about Skellig Michael and the Star Wars connection. In fact, the “Star Wars” Jedi knights were partly inspired by the Knights Templar.
Christian readers will appreciate an adventure plot that adheres to Christian values and culture. Finnian’s desire for revenge has to become a desire to protect the innocent before his quest can advance. Supernatural visions are greeted with an appropriate balance between disbelief and credulity. Finnian must acquire a companion for his quest, just as Frodo needed Sam and apostolic brothers and sisters are usually sent out in pairs.
Catholic readers in particular will appreciate the portrayal of ancient monastic life, but Protestant readers can also appreciate the Christian themes that play out in the story. Secular readers can enjoy this book especially if they are Star Wars, history, or fantasy enthusiasts. It should be noted that while the book has very much the ‘feel’ of a historical fantasy, the fantasy element is minimal and Christian in nature. (Think, Grail Quest legends rather than King Arthur and Merlin.)
This is a first installment in a much longer series and as such is very much a ‘setting-up’ book. We learn enough about Finnian and other characters to want to know more, but character building is inevitably limited by the short page span. Similarly, there weren’t any big surprises, plot-wise, but the book launches Finnian on his quest in a sound and satisfying manner. The ever-present island puffins—drawn no less naturalistically than the rest but somehow always looking happy—are a lovely touch in an otherwise serious narrative.
In short, this book would be very good for most fans of comic books and graphic novels, and especially for fans of Star Wars, as well as anyone open to a historically interesting foray into the illustrated genre. Finnian and the Seven Mountains Volume 1 is a satisfying beginning to a historical fantasy adventure series that tackles the difficult task of appealing to both religious and secular readers with considerable gusto—and unusual success.