This Land: The Search for Māui by Mark Abnett
An ancient god has fallen from the sky. A promise has been made and a bargain struck. From the ashes a new continent is born in the Pacific Ocean. In the new world, ancient taniwha awake, tribes fight for survival and people are transformed with abilities beyond their understanding. When an angry god returns from the skies demanding answers, Hell'na and her band of superpowered misfits must find the trickster Māui.
First produced as a series of comics, Scholastic is publishing this graphic novelisation. This book is a compilation of the first three issues of the comic.
Inspired by the history and heritage of Aotearoa, the concept and original story was written by Mark Abnett, in consultation with Māori advisors. It was then brought to life in graphic format by a team led by P R Dedelis.
This is the book I wish existed when I was younger. It is imaginative and fresh, full of energy and creativity. Comic books have always been popular, and it's awesome to see more and more reflect ourselves within the pages.
Readers will recognise many characters, places and names, but the story is intended to be taken in a futuristic context, with respect to the past - the story opens 52 years after the breaking of the moon and the death of technology. There's te reo Māori scattered throughout the book - but those who are learning the language don't need to panic. There are translations included too.
Of course, a big part of graphic novels are the illustrations. The illustrations are bold and bright, with some wonderful interpretations of ātua. There's a whole host of creators that contributed to this book. As well as author and illustrator, there's kowhaiwhai designer Hekiera Mareroa, translator Trent Brown-Marsh, while Seb Wikaraka Peni has the role of iwi design and Verona-Meiana Putaranui offers guidance. It's refreshing to see the care and respect of cultural elements within the pages.
The popularity of graphic novels is on the rise with readers of all ages. There's a myriad of benefits to reading graphic novels - including engaging reluctant readers, reinforcing reading skills, and provoking deeper thinking. Reading a graphic novel that is important to the identity of everyone in Aotearoa? Even better.
This Land: The Search for Māui is bold and energetic and will appeal to comic fans keen to find stories that resonate with a local flavour.
Reviewed by Rebekah Lyell
Scholastic, RRP $24.99