Note: This book contains two distinct adventures: The Rock Painters, Art of the Upper Paleolithic Period and also The Babylonians, Art of Mesopotamia. Each story starts with a little introduction page. David is an apprentice artist to Master Messina and Angela joins in the second adventure. While there are a few typos, perhaps due to translation errors perhaps, in the first story, there are more in the second, including a few lines that are rather clunky. Please note that my copy was an ARC and these typos and translation errors may be corrected in the final publication. They did not detract from my enjoyment of the book.
In the first tale, The Rock Painters, Art of the Upper Paleolithic Period, Messina uses hypnosis to transport both himself and David into the distant past – the Paleolithic period. There, they befriend a small group of nomadic hunters and they then spend weeks with them learning about their various types of art. Po-pec and Ae-tel are the most prominent characters among the the tribe. They act as guides for David and Messina in exploring caves and learning how to do their art.
What I really loved about this story is that the author didn’t shy away from using big words, which were then usually explained by Messina or by the context of the images the words related to. Also, the story shows several different types of art, such as portable art (images carved on small bone pieces), narrative art (art that tells a story), clay modeling, bas-reliefs, and others. The story also goes into some of the techniques used in making the art.
In between the bits of art lesson, David and Messina are on an adventure. There’s animal hunts, dancing, mudslides, and more. Not only do our heroes get to examine the prehistoric art up close, they get to live the life for several weeks, giving them a deeper appreciation of the art. My little criticism for this story is that while there are a few females depicted in the tale, none of them get names, get any lines, and aren’t a significant part of the story.
In the second story, The Babylonians, Art of Mesopotamia, David and Messina use the same method to be transported back to around 600 BC in the city of Babylon. Angela, Messina’s niece, was also transported with them and she’s just as ready as David for an adventure. They start their hunt for the origins of Mesopotamian art. They see several famous buildings, such as the Ishtar Gate and the Babylonian gardens. It’s not just architecture they investigate, but also the decorative friezes and and the glass bricks with relief patterns.
Still they hunt for the origins of this fine art. With the aid of the god Marduk, they are transported even further back to 645 BC at the Ninive library. At this point in the story, somehow they are able to understand the Niniveans and vice versa. In the first story, such linguistic abilities were not possible. However, they are unable to understand the written cuneiform. While I found this odd, it wasn’t a major point in the story. Besides, I was having too much fun with this ancient history adventure. There’s the ruler Assurbanipal and the mythological hero Gilgamesh to meet! There’s wall paintings and sculptures to enjoy!
The next leg of the journey has them even further back in time, in the second millennium BC, where they meet Hammurabi. Here, I was pleased to see the diorite sculptures. Finally, Marduk transports them to the third millennium BC, in the city of Uruk of the Sumerian civilization. Here they meet the high priestess of the goddess Innana. Finally, they discover the origins of the Mesopotamian art. Indeed, I found it very clever to walk back in time and see how architecture and art grew from these earliest Sumerian works. I enjoyed this second adventure more than the first, partially because it wasn’t just an art adventure, but also architecture and history. Also, this story had three female characters (though only two have names) that each had lines and roles in the story.
Illustration: I really enjoyed the illustrations for this graphic novel. In the first adventure, The Rock Painters, Art of the Upper Paleolithic Period, I especially liked that Mosquera has this distinct style for the story, but then also uses a different style to depict the Paleolithic art. Her depictions of the cave art is immediately identifiable as such. As with the first story, The Babylonians, Art of Mesopotamia has the distinct style for all the characters and background, but then totally different styles to depict the various art. I like that Mosquera rendered true-to-life depictions of the various art, which added to my delight in the book.