Baird and Costner team up with illustrator Ross (Urban Monsters, 2008, etc.) for a globe-trotting yarn of lost cities, secret societies, and privileged fisticuffs, backdropped by World War I.
At center are the Ogdens—brothers John and Arthur, sister Frances. Answering a gentlemanly challenge, Arthur braves the Arctic with his fellow dilettante explorers of the titular guild, and among the “Esquimaux,” Arthur encounters a bright white light, a sunken city, and the onset of a severe wasting condition. News reaches John—a major under the British Viceroy—via Frances’ letter and convinces him to desert his post in Mesopotamia in order to help Arthur by collecting other sufferers of “the Complaint” for examination by the mysterious Mr. Sloane, a dead ringer for a former colleague of John’s who had grievously wronged Fan, was grievously injured himself—then vanished completely. Ever at John’s side are his dragoons—hard drinking, expertly violent, and drawn mainly from the British Isles. Their phonetically spelled accents underscore the emphasis on language, with page upon page filled with rumors, philosophies, and personal histories, in conversation or written correspondence, and threading through it all is a loquacious, omniscient narrator of the “gentle reader” variety. Dense, handsome prose undulates ever forward, textured by floridity and imagination—rival sects; talking islands; massive, uncanny machinery; Inuit Babylons; séances; lost knowledge. The politics also feel ancient, with good-guy Anglos traipsing the globe and embarrassing their enemies, while the women worry or are just strong enough to care for a sickly orphan. Pages split almost evenly between solid text and graphic storytelling, and yet the images—entirely sufficient in an action-figure sort of way—are often used to do no more than deliver dialogue. Nevertheless, with its colorful cast, exotic locales, and intertwined fates, the book slowly addicts.
A rousing throwback whose spinning plates never stop, even at the end (cue Volume 2).