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November 19, 2007


CR Review: Set To Sea

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Creator: Drew Weing
Publishing Information: Self-published, webcomic, single panel, ongoing, free
Ordering Numbers:

imageThere's a lovely sequence in the more recent panels of Drew Weing's Set to Sea that forced me to reconsider the series to date. Our large protagonist has through an episode of rage during ship to ship combat moved from navel conscript to third mate. Given a sense of daily purpose to balance against a more general love for books and writing, he settles into what seems like a fruitful, even happy period, seeing the world and functioning within it in addition to simply writing about it. Weing pulls out the drawing stops and gives us a dozen or so well-composed snapshots of this new life, condensing a lot of information into visual shorthand and taking a step back from the kind of narrative progression that whole panels sometimes do less well. It's eye-opening not just for the skill on display, in Weing's ability to massage the moment, but also in that it's the first time Set to Sea felt paced according to something other than the artist reaching for what might happen next. For the first time, it feels like a story.

What we don't know quite yet is how much the herky-jerky elements of the early sequences were an intentional reflection of the protagonist's uncertain, not-quite-fully-embraced existence, or, conversely, how much the sweep that starts to build during the travel sequence is a whisper of fulfillment close by or simply the romance of the seas filling the sails of Weing's narrative. One thing for certain: the change in pace has been crucial when it comes to suggesting something deeper to a story that for its first several weeks offered little but its cartoonist's oddball character design. Stories of the sea are difficult, as are tales featuring reluctant protagonists. While Weing's sea sequences exude a vitality missing from early panels, they aren't by themselves enough to imply poetry, or immersion, or meaning. Weing chose to make this a character study early on, and now that the setting has shifted to suggest a suitable backdrop for the lead character, Set to Sea must soon make good in terms of what happens to its unlikely protagonist, the story of his decisions and what they cost.

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