Jim Henson, creator
Bartosz Sztybor, story
Jakub Rebelka, art
Jim Campbell, letters
This is the first of 4 issues, which revisit stories that were created by Jim Henson. This particular story is based on the original story: The Mermaid and the Fisherman. In this issue, a fisherman spends the majority of his time working until he meets a mermaid whom he locks away in a remote island castle. The man loves to hear the mermaid sing, so he leaves his wife and daughter alone, and goes to the castle to listen. However, his love for the mermaid’s voice causes him to neglect all other areas of his life. Eventually, the fisherman grows sick of the mermaid’s voice and lets her back in the ocean so that he can find another mermaid with a better voice. When he returns home he discovers that this house is empty and his family has left him. Later, he goes in town and hears a young woman singing in an inn, he reminisces over the things he’s lost because of his greed.
The strength of this issue is the layered approach taken by the author in communicating the moral or values gained by the protagonist: too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. He begins the book with a dog sitting next to its owner begging for a treat. The dog and owner have a conversation, which leads the owner to tell the story about the fisherman. This approach helps model for the reader an observer’s perspective, which is an important skill when scrutinizing our motivations. While some readers might experience the story as to on-the-nose, I found the story interesting and layered.
The art supports the story throughout; it never distracted me from the exposition, and it reinforced the strong emotional undertow of the book. For example, the loneliness was felt in scenes showing the chained mermaid and the fisherman as she sang with sadness and emptiness. Again, the blocky, simple renditions of the fisherman and the townspeople reinforced the minimalist aesthetic of the time period. Finally, the hunched bodies, and lowered heads of the wife and mother beautifully rendered the emotion of being forgotten and not important enough to love.
This rendition of the Jim Henson’s story is a beautiful, yet minimalist, retelling of a classic tale layered with meaning. The backdrop of an ancient port city and a fisherman searching for fulfillment outside of his family, is haunting and timeless because of the messaging. It speaks of the danger associated with greed while overlooking the blessings that might be hidden right in front of our faces. I highly recommend this book for stories and not a few grown men.