santa fe jailI enjoyed the first Mortensen story, The Mysterious Manuscript, but had hoped there would be more information about, well, everything in this sequel. Unfortunately, when I finished reading this story I found myself even more confused.

The same forward from the previous book is repeated, telling us a time gun has been created and that time agents now have to solve time crimes. Then the story opens in New Mexico, 1973, where a mysterious man in an anachronistic hat is walking across the desert with a briefcase chained to his wrist. Then we move to London at the same time, where Lord Guinness is trying to hire time agent Mortensen to escort Dr. William Jensen, an expert on rare metals, or no, apparently Jensen has been kidnapped and they want Mortensen to rescue him. Mortensen agrees to deliver a map to the kidnapper, the ransom being buried in the Santa Fe desert. On the plane, Mortensen is drugged by a mysterious woman who resembles Lord Guinness’ confidential maid, and wakes up in a cargo plane with a scruffy pilot. Turn the page and we’re in Budapest, 1901, where Beth Jensen is looking for her husband with a smarmy guy who tells her that he’s probably been hidden in time. Then Mortensen and the pilot have to bail out from the plane. They get captured by natives, but rescued by a scientist, Kathryn. The action keeps bopping back and forth from Beth, who finds her husband in 1901, to Mortensen, Kathryn, and the pilot, to the mysterious man in the desert with the ransom. After many more confusing trips, Mortensen figures out the rare metals deal was a scam and it ends with the same mysterious man in the desert, only in 1873 (thus explaining the hat) and a voice saying “Checkmate, Dr. Einstein!” from a building.

The informational sections at the back include essays on “Jailhouses in the Old Days”, patent medicine, The Black Cruise, Iringa, Tanzania, Nazis and meteors. The art is consistent with the first book, lots of small panels, caricatured faces, and neatly drawn backgrounds.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t make any sense. Most of the time it is difficult to figure out where or when the characters are, let alone what they’re doing. Mortensen is supposed to be tracking down clues, but seems to spend most of the story wandering from time to time. New characters are introduced with a minimum of backstory and explanation and there are no continuing characters, besides Mortensen, from the first book. Of course, the time guns pop up and disappear regularly and Mortensen frowns fiercely over a variety of confusing clues, but none of this is a substitute for an actual, linear plot. According to the publisher, Mortensen’s Escapades is a highly popular comic strip in Denmark, and I can’t but wonder if the confusing plot is due to a poor translation or perhaps the story makes more sense if you read one strip a week, rather than trying to follow the story all at once.

I really wanted to like this series, but so far the scattered and confusing plot, random characters, and bewildering time jumps make it a difficult read. It’s certainly not something I’d hand to a kid looking for adventure comics or Tintin read-alikes.

Mortensen’s Escapades, vol. 2: Santa Fe Jail
by Lars Jakobsen
ISBN: 9780822594215
Lerner Graphic Universe, 2012

  • Jennifer

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Matheson Memorial Library

    Reviewer

    Jennifer Wharton is the Youth Services Librarian at Matheson Memorial Library in Elkhorn, Wisconsin where she maintains the juvenile and young adult graphic novel collections and was responsible for creating the library’s adult graphic novel collection. She is constantly looking for great new comics for kids and teens and new ways to incorporate graphic storytelling in programming. Jennifer blogs for preschool through middle grade at JeanLittleLibrary and has an MLS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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