Carla Speed McNeil’s epic Finder has something beyond sci fi to offer.

Finder: Talisman is about losing the books of your childhood to time, the stories that made you want to read. Marcie had a favorite book before she knew how to read- an old family friend would read it to her- and by the time she could read it, the book wasn’t the same any more. But the ghost of it remained, stories that lived in her memory that burned brighter than the ones being told all around her. More specifically, Talisman is about the desire to tell stories. The desire to recreate both the boundless fantasy world of our early imagination and to produce the kind of writing that is the same quality as the books you read that make you glad you are literate. Marcie struggles with how hard it is to capture that. The endless chasm of the blank page.

Marcie’s love of reading and books makes her a character lost in her own time. She was brought up by outsiders to appreciate something no one else cares for or does anymore. Technology outpaced manual reading a long time before Marcie was even born. She went to school so she could learn to read so she could read that one book. But when is it ever just one book? Marcie also struggles with reconciling her responsibilities in life with her addiction to enchantment.

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She’s got escapist blues.

The world of Finder has no time for anachronisms. The series focuses on a domed city set far into a future of genetically regulated social castes. Despite the omnipresence of cybertechnology, Finder has a fantasy feel to it. Time has moved on, past the technology everyone uses, and the cracks in the social structure are showing. I say Fantasy but perhaps I mean Romance. Saga is another comic that nails this aesthetic, or the cartoon Steven Universe, a vision of the future where the domestic is pitted against the fantastic. Finder is able to tell a story like Talisman because the world inside Carla Speed McNeil is so intensely realized on the page. The first few books establish the families at the core of the series and the world they live in so it can leave them and tell a variety of stories starring the city. Marcie’s story, the story of stories, is by far the best, but by no means the only great one, nor is it the only one worth looking into.

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Dream Sequence tells the story of the most popular MMORPG in the world, and the one man whose head in which it resides. Magri White’s dream world is literally a place everyone else who can afford the processing software can jack into and experience, making his ability to daydream uninterrupted a vital corporate holding. Only something in the game is mutilating the customers and/as Magri is losing touch with reality.

“Think of it as Slice of Life Embellished, with the embellishment Cranked Up to Eleven, then taught to play nice and not upstage Slice of Life.”

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King of Cats takes a vacation to a Disneyland filled with a mixed diaspora including lion-people. Mystery Date is a hots for teacher story, only the university staff includes Q the Winged Serpent. The Voice makes a taught thriller out of a beauty pageant where everyone is genetically engineered to look the same.

It’s hard to believe that it is written and drawn by one person, Carla, and initially published on her own imprint, Lightspeed Press. The entire Finder archive was recently picked up and reprinted by Dark Horse, including a beautiful hardcover version of Talisman made to look like Marcie’s lost book. Each of the two Dark Horse Library collections of CSM self-published work are the equivalent of four TPBs (both go way over 600 pages each!!) for the price of $13 / £9 per on Comixology. Not that you are getting 600+ pages of straight comics- McNeil also includes annotations to every issue. Every reference, every piece of world history, every side-note is tallied at the end by the author for any curious parties.

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Talisman is the last story in the first volume of The Finder Library.