By Ben Boruff
Every so often, two or more of my interests share a glorious, usually fleeting moment. Once, I ate cheesecake as Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited flowed from tastefully small speakers that sat on a rustic coffee table next to a dog-eared copy of William Gibson's Neuromancer. Years later, I met Henry Winkler at a comic con, and he performed an amateur magic trick. And just yesterday, my cat and I played with bubble wrap.
Thanks to artist Craig Bruyn and writer Ryan K Lindsay, my love of indie comics and my passion for teaching are now able to meet, mingle, and march together through the pages of Ink Island, a new one-shot comic about monsters, confidence, and companionship.
Make no mistake: Though Ink Island's story offers something for all readers, this "all-ages" comic is best equipped to teach young children. Like most stories for young readers, the dialogue is cumbersome and homiletic at times, and postpubescent readers will likely roll their eyes at the occasional inclusion of otherwise unnecessary four-syllable vocabulary words ("their filthy hives and iniquitous caves on Ink Island"). The story's narrative bounces a bit too quickly from emotion to emotion, and the characters are predictable and relatively two-dimensional. But all of this is understandable: Ink Island is for children, and narratives that cater to children are different than narratives that cater to adults (as they should be—there's a reason that Dora and Diego don't act like Don Draper).
Earlier this year, a runaway inside joke evolved into genuine appreciation for PAW Patrol, an animated show about a group of dogs who protect a small town called Adventure Bay. In January, I was ironically watching episodes of the show on TV. By late February, I had bought tickets to see a live-action version of the show in Chicago with a friend. What intrigues me (and my friends) about the show is its ability to translate and package concepts like sustainability and adaptive change for young audiences. The episodes are simplistic, but the lessons are not. Like PAW Patrol, Ink Island's lessons are refreshingly nuanced. If I had a son or daughter, I would want them to learn lessons like those contained in this entertaining comic.
I teach high school students, so my understanding of elementary education is limited. But I believe that most kid-filled homes and classrooms will benefit from a having a few copies of Ink Island scattered around for children to read. And if Ryan K Lindsay and Craig Bruyn's teaching guide for Ink Island is as impressive as the comic, I suggest getting a copy of that too.
Writer: Ryan K Lindsay
Artist: Craig Bruyn
Letterer: Ryan Ferrier
Publisher: Four Colour Ray Gun