For me, the name Philip Pullman I associate with the Sally Lockhart mysteries, which were four mysteries set in London, the fourth of which barely features Sally. They were interconnected and great reads. However, for a lot of people, I know Pullman's name is probably more recognizable for his series, His Dark Materials, from which the film The Golden Compass was based.
So, when I saw this new hardcover graphic novel on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, I thought I'd give it a try. The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship is not just the story of John Blake. In fact, John Blake doesn't really come into the story until 31 pages in; the story opens with several other of our main characters - Danielle, the employee at the International Maritime Organization in San Francisco who has been uncovering an unusual phenomena regarding an alleged "ghost ship" that has appeared throughout history; Mr. Harland, a man who seems more than determined to keep Danielle from uncovering the truth about that ship; Roger, a James Bond-type operative who is digging into the activities of the Pentagram Foundation and why they are so interested in the ship, the "Mary Alice"; and Serena Henderson, a teenage girl on vacation with her parents in the South Pacific when the ship appears, causing her to fall into the ocean - - and be rescued by John Blake himself!
The "Mary Alice" is a very unique ship - its passengers are not only from all walks of life and from all around the globe - they are also gathered from various points in time throughout history! Serena finds herself overwhelmed, but John quickly takes her under his wing. In the present time, Harland's men steal all of the information that Danielle has acquired over the years regarding the "Mary Alice," and she is left wondering what she is going to do now - until a friend reveals a recent sighting of the ship in Fiji, where an Australian family reports seeing their ship and their daughter missing. Danielle heads for Fiji, unaware that Harland is watching her every move and makes plans to go to Fiji as well.
As the story progresses, readers learn not only more about the "Mary Alice" and where it comes from, but also about John Blake and why he is such an integral part of the story and of the continued survival of the ship. Readers also discover the identity of the person pulling Harland's strings and why that person is so desperate to get a hold of the "Mary Alice" and to silence John Blake once and for all.
This story has it all - high seas adventure, secret spy machinations, danger, and above all else, an underlying mystery. While the opening pages seem a bit disjointed as they jump from one unrelated character to another, Pullman manages to weave all the stories and characters together for one final showdown that will determine the fates of not only Danielle, John, and Harland, but the entire world and the future of science!
Pullman tells a great story, and artist Fred Fordham (with whose work I am completely unfamiliar, but would love to see him do more!) brings that story to life so vibrantly. I particularly love his scenes of the ship appearing in the fog, as well as the way that he draws John Blake's expressions - such determination expressed!
This is a great book that crosses so many genres - mystery, adventure, and comics all rolled into one. There's no indication that any further adventures of John Blake are in the works, but it would definitely be nice to see Pullman and Fordham come together to tell another story of Blake and the "Mary Alice."
RATING: 9 apprators out of 10 for mixing time travel, mystery, and high seas adventure and producing a fun story to read in visual form!