Jun 29, 2017

The 40 Years of Comics Project - The Weekly Graphic Novel: Week 50 - Maui: Legends of the Outcast, 1996


I picked this book up a few weeks back, but was prompted to read it this week when the recent Disney film Moana dropped on Netflix. I was intrigued by the occasional references in that movie to Maui's rejection by his own Mother, and today's graphic novel delves into those stories explicitly.

Perhaps it would have been a bit dark for a Disney flick, but it's never mentioned that Maui's mother abandons him not through a lack of affection for the child, but because she believes he is stillborn. When she consigns him to the waves, believing he is dead, he is nurtured by the ocean's creatures, and rescued and raised by the deities of the ocean. This puts a bit of different spin on the bitterness that is evident both in this version of the character and the Disney version. I don't see anywhere in this book any attempt at understanding from Maui that his mother thought he was dead, that is was not utter rejection but grief that brought her to the ocean's edge with her child. Though perhaps this kind of self-reflection is not the purpose of the Maui myths. Perhaps they are more about perseverance in the face of the overwhelming odds Maui overcomes.

The art, by Chris Slaine, in today's piece is nicely stylized, which I think works really well when you're telling stories about mythic individuals. They're not really meant to look, sound, or be like humans. They're meant to resemble us, enough that they can teach, but not to be us, otherwise their stories would lack the gravitas that they have. Even divine characters with human personalities, like the Greek pantheon or the characters in this book, are still just enough removed from humanity (mostly by their own knowledge of their divine origin) to be a bit alien. They are simpler creatures, and as such their stories communicate to us about complex issues from a relatively (in contrast, anyway) straightforward point of view.

If you liked Moana, and you were as intrigued by the character of Maui as I was, this is a pretty great place to go for a bit more of his story.


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