Jaeger, the titular Finder of Carla Speed McNeil’s intricate creations, has a full, colorful book to himself in this installment. The color is a first and it is gorgeous, adding to the reality of McNeil’s world. The reader no longer has to imagine the range of skin tones, the dreary unlit spaces of the bottom of Anvard, and the bright interiors of its leisure depots, not to mention the sun baked landscapes of the outskirts, where Jaeger eventually finds himself with no way home, a first for his character.
McNeil begins with Jaeger sitting in a waiting room in a suit, face bloodied, just past the edge of frustration and anger, tipping over into a look that translates into a snarl. As a Finder, he is prone to becoming a part of other people’s adventures and this is no exception. The serialized chapters follow Jaeger on his trips working as a courier, on a break (permanent, maybe) from some dirtier work that we don’t see the details of. This is uncharacteristic of Jaeger in the remainder of the book. Since he never gets lost, he is remarkably laid back to most people, finding it a fun challenge to deposit a package by jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper or rappelling down a manhole with a bemused look on his face that is not quite a smile. If, like me, you have read the previously published stories, Voice and Talisman, but have yet to delve into the collected Finder volumes 1 and 2, Jaeger has thus far been a somewhat mysterious adult figure. He makes appearances as he wishes and is a touchstone for main characters Rachel and Marcie, but he is not the focus of the book.
Third World humanizes Jaeger more by letting us see him interact with all manner of people. He indulges children, becomes irritated by running into former colleagues from his dirty work days, escorts a lost old woman along a series of pipes between sections of the city, and finally fangirls when he hitches a ride with a cab that can do things with time and space that even he has never experienced.
If the first part of the book suffers from anything, it is that the stories of Jaeger’s various courier jobs are charming but don’t fit together with the wider narrative that imposes itself in the second half of the story. Part Two gets to the meat of Jaeger’s mystery: he is stranded in the desert, stripped of his most defining trait, and confronted with rituals of his Ascian race that he participates in, but isn’t yet comfortable with. Here McNeil’s art, always concise and expressive, expands into atmospheric full pages that raise the emotional tenor of the story, isolating Jaeger in a semi-mystical shifting sandstorm or pitting his solitary journey against a streetscape filled with kites and people, the colors and detail almost making the noise of it all jump off the page. Jaeger as a character is closed off, so even as we see things that affect him, the stories become more about the world that he reflects on rather than his reactions to the world. Third World shows how Jaeger’s experience of being an outsider contributed to his isolation—his culture’s erasure has turned him and other Ascians inward.
In the end, Jaeger is back in Anvard in a life-changing situation, leaving this reader, at least, wishing that there were less of Part One, no matter how fun it was to explore different settings in a short amount of pages, in favor of getting deeper into the story of Part Two. The differing stories in Third World are not the best entry point to new readers of Finder, but as a gorgeous book that illuminates more of Jaeger’s experience as a person, bringing out themes of his outsiderness using McNeil’s trademark humor and intricate, humane storytelling, it is a welcome installment.
Finder: Third World
by Carla Speed McNeil
Dark Horse, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 16+