Kana’s Island #1 (One Room Hut)
Written and Illustrated by Mark Page
On the dedication page for Kana’s Island, Mark Page lists Jeff Smith as one of his inspirations. That’s pretty bold, if you ask me.
Sure, just because you list someone as an inspiration doesn’t mean you’re necessarily comparing your work to his, but when it’s Jeff Smith… when you’re basically saying, “I’d like to accomplish something like Jeff Smith accomplished on Bone…” that’s pretty freaking bold.
Fortunately, Mark Page is off to a wonderful start.
He tells the story of a young boy from a wandering tribe of fishermen who’ve recently settled on a new island. A large mountain range separates their beach village from the rest of the island, but they hear strange noises from the other side of the range and determine never to explore over there. Until one day a strangely dressed frog steals some of Kana’s pineapple cookies and Kana chases him through a tunnel and into the extraordinary and wonderful place on the other side of the mountain range.
Someone once said that readers should beware of fantasy books with maps in them. I don’t completely agree, because I love maps of all kinds, but I guess I see what this “someone” (damn my faulty memory!) was getting at. A lot of fantasy books with maps are pretentious Tolkien rip-offs, but Page’s map of Kana’s island fills you with wonder before you even read the first page, and filling readers with wonder is what the comic is all about.
Kana only gets to explore a couple of places in the first issue, but with locations called Fern Valley Falls, Bamboo Jungle, Animal City, the Forest of Gloom, and the Gateway to Aqualon (the Underwater Kingdom), the imagination reels at trying to envision the various adventures awaiting Kana and us.
Kana is a delightful guide who accidentally finds himself on the wrong side of the mountain. His amusement and excitement at discovering new places is contagious and even when things get dangerous, he’s charmingly resourceful. He’s too young and little to save the day all on his own, but he helps and we quickly fall in love with him.
The book is printed in grayscale, but Page’s art is so vivid and animated that you can’t help but imagine colors as you read it. Kana’s Island would make a delightful cartoon series, but fortunately for us, Page has chosen to tell it as a comic. A wonderful, glorious, open-ended, Bone-inspired comic.
Here’s hoping that it lasts as long as Bone did.