Set to Sea: moving and beautiful graphic novel about a poet who becomes an involuntary sailor

Drew Weing's slender, hand-sized debut graphic novel Set to Sea is a crosshatched masterpiece. It's the story of a nameless gentle giant who dreams of being a poet, but mostly he's a bum in a seaside town. Discouraged and penniless, he thinks nothing could get worse -- until he gets shanghaiied for a cross-ocean voyage to the port of Hong Kong.

Ship life is an awful drudge, and the big lug throws his poems into the sea, losing all hope. He has nothing to live for -- until the ship is beset by pirates. The peaceful, morose giant doesn't want to fight, but after he is wounded, he flies into a rage and single-handedly beats off the pirates. He is made third mate for his bravery, and gradually, he find camaraderie and identity among the sailors.

As his love for life is rekindled, so is his dream of writing poetry. Through an artful montage, we see him grow older and wiser, see him return to his poetry, but he is more experienced now -- and it shows in his poems.

Weing draws in an elaborate, crosshatched style that's half Popeye, half Maakies, and it meshes brilliantly with the subject matter and the storytelling. Set to Sea is so lovely in places that I found myself exclaiming aloud -- it's got a naive-but-self-conscious grace that is impossible to describe and that few have ever mastered. This one is highly recommended.

Set to Sea