Robert Hunter’s brief graphic novel Map of Days has a scope that is as far-reaching as it is enchanting, offering a story that’s both beautifully simple and gorgeously drawn. The book itself opens with a fairytale-esque prologue that tells of the origins of existence via several planet-shaped siblings, who come into being and begin to shape life, and one sibling’s overwhelmed state at the sight of what it creates.
After this, the bulk of the story centres on keen swimmer Richard, who spends his summers with his grandfather at his home by the sea. Richard continually notices his grandfather caring for an unearthly grandfather clock, and when his curiosity grips him, Richard opens the grandfather clock, steps inside, and discovers a startling home truth about his grandfather, the clock, and the very fabric of creation.
Published by Nobrow Press, Map of Days is sublime in its bare look and simplistic story-telling – the story itself has the potential head-numbing depth of any Doctor Who series finale, yet it’s presented in an almost child-like way, offering the reader an uncluttered and innocent tale of both our yearnings for freedom and the responsibilities we must take as we grow older.
The book is both illustrated and printed in a vintage style – characters lack pupils, or any sense of definitive detail for that matter, yet Hunter does a superb job in getting emotions out of his creations. The artwork itself matches the understated nature of the book, with simple 2D-ish designs given immense life through warm, solid colouring.
Map of Days is a book that demonstrates a fine balance in all its aspects, and one that is as spellbinding as any late-night bedtime story your parents may have read you. But this is a bedtime story you can read over and over again, no matter how old you are.