COMIC BOOK REVIEW: LONG GONE DON: BOOK 1 / AUTHOR: THE ETHERINGTON BROTHERS / ARTIST: THE ETHERINGTON BROTHERS / PUBLISHER: DAVID FICKLING BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
"The remarkable tale of Don Skelton begins at the very end."
From the moment that unremarkable Don Skelton drowns at school in a bowl of soup, his adventures begin, transporting him to a fantastical world where talking birds and maniacal monsters live side by side, in a city ruled by a dastardly villain with a capital V. This is a comic that oozes creativity on every panel, from the vibrant colour palette to the array of monsters, heroes and other nefarious creatures.
This particular writer found Long Gone Don to be a mixed bag. Unlike the other Phoenix strips that we read, this one was too grown-up to share with my three-year-old daughter, because the layouts are simply too dense, with too many characters, backgrounds that are too complex and dialogue that would confound her. My six-year-old son enjoyed reading it with me, but a lot of it went over his head.
The Etherington brothers miss no opportunity to create strange names and characters. As examples, Fortuna Junior School, the city of Broilerdoom, the group of adventuring Irregulars, the talking bird called Castanet… none of these are a problem in themselves, but there's so much creativity on show that there isn't really an anchor to help children understand what's happening. It's all a bit manic.
That's an observation that can be applied to every aspect of Long Gone Done. An abundance of panels are packed into every page. Most panels are filled with multiple word balloons. Overall, this small book offers great value for money, but I wish that it had all had more time to breathe, with touchstones to ground the plot.
Moving on from those criticisms, the art is gorgeous, the story is a lot of fun and the characters are excellent. I don't want to give the impression that we didn't enjoy reading Long Gone Don together, because we did, more that it felt aimed at a slightly older audience, with references to mariachi bands, polling stations and a lot of complex ideas.
Long Gone Done is a fantastic book, at a fantastic price, in a market where children in the UK are criminally underrepresented. I can't imagine any child agreeing with my criticism that Long Gone Don is too inventive at times and I'm sure that as my son grows he'll grow into it.
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