Advance Review: The Isle of 100,000 Graves


978-1-60699-442-9-1 The Isle of 100,000 Graves is a 56-page graphic novel written by Fabien Vehlmann, illustrated by Jason, and coloured by Hubert. The book is published by Fantagraphics Books, and will be in comic shops on June 15th. However, it looks like it’s already available on the book market, as it is listed as in stock on Amazon.

Five years ago, little Gwenny’s father found, inside a bottle, a map with instructions on how to reach the mysterious Isle of 100,000 Graves and its legendary treasures — and then he vanished. Now Gwenny, having stumbled across another bottle-shipped map, enlists the dubious help of a ship full of pirates, sets out to find the island, and her long-lost dad.

Little does she realize that the Isle comes by its ominous name honestly, as the location of a secret school for executioners and torturers, where apple-cheeked youngsters are taught the finer points of extracting information from prisoners… and then putting an end to their lives in a wide variety of gruesome ways. And they’ve reached the point in their studies where theory should ideally give way to practice, so an influx of uninvited visitors comes as a blessing to the faculty.


I’m a humongous fan of Jason’s work, and own nearly everything that he’s ever done. This book is different from Jason’s usual work though, in that he’s only drawing the book, and not writing the story. The story is written by Fabien Vehlmann, who while not that well known in North America, is incredibly popular in France, and highly acclaimed, even being dubbed “The René Goscinny of the third millennium”. Some North American readers may have read BOOM! Studios’ English translation of his collaboration with Sean Phillips - 7 Psychopaths. If you haven’t then make sure to order a copy, because it is a fantastic high-octane thriller that will blow your mind! Anyway,  I was pretty intrigued to see how Jason’s illustration would work with someone else’s writing. The short answer is that it works amazingly well. The long answer is…

The story presented is a darkly humorous tales, centered around the incredibly original concept of a secret school for executioners and torturers. The school is based on a remote island, and so doesn’t tend to get many visitors, especially those guilty of a crime. Therefore, the school lures pirates (clearly guilty of something) to the island, by dumping bottles into the ocean, which contain maps to a secret buried treasure on the island. Then when they arrive, they are used as guinea pigs in the school’s torture and execution classes. Genius! When the story opens, our protagonist finds one of these bottle on the beach, and so heads off in search of her father, who went missing years before, while in search of this same treasure. It’s a fantastic premise that while a pretty dark in nature, is presented in a lighhearted and whimsical way. The story is brilliantly told, with great pacing, and sharp and witty dialogue. Vehlmann’s characters certainly talk a heck of a lot more that Jason’s do, typically to deliver hilarious, deadpan lines. The humour here is mostly gallows houmous, and Vehlmann delivers every line with perfect comedic timing. It’s not all laughs though, as Vehlmann also delivers a number of incredibly emotional scenes, particularly the final one, which may just bring a tear to your eye.

Jason’s artwork on this book is nothing short of spectacular. He uses his typically style of illustration on the story - understated and minimalistic, featuring anthropomorphic characters whose eye’s have no pupils. You wouldn’t think it, but this style seems to lend itself well to any genre, adapting itself perfectly to the nature of the story. One slight difference with his style on this book is that the colours a lot brighter than they are typically, thanks to the wonderful colouring job by Hubert. The more colourful artwork seems to work really well here, by acting as a bright counterpoint to all the torture and execution going on. I mentioned earlier that Vehlmann delivers lines with perfect comic timing, well this is accentuated by Jason’s artwork on the story. I love the fact that his characters’ expression hardly ever change - even when they are delivering ludicrous lines, their expressions tend to remain blank, which seems to make the lines that much funnier.

The Isle of 100,000 Graves is an inventive and original tale, filled to the brim with absurd and hilarious dialogue, delivered with impeccable timing by Fabien Vehlmann. The story is brought to life with wonderful artwork by Jason, and eye popping colours by Hubert. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, I don’t think I’ve laughed this much at a comic in years!

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