Map of Days by Robert Hunter reads like a mythological tale, intended to explain observable phenomena in our world through a lively, colorful art style and simplistic storytelling. Unfortunately, the book falls into areas lacking any semblance of clarity, unclear if it wants to be telling a literal character-based story, or an allegorical tale about broader ideas, and failing to juggle both.
The prologue of the book gives us a world-creation story of sorts, establishing nine siblings that “create order in the dusty cosmos.” Of course, my first reaction to this was to check the date of publication to see if Pluto was still considered a planet at the time. It was not. Regardless, art on the following pages shows that the story is clearly focusing on the “Earth” sibling.
After establishing these “spirits” in the prologue, our main story opens with the primary protagonist visiting the ocean, reflecting back to an experience in his youth. Our unnamed protagonist visits his grandfather’s house. The grandfather, Frank, has a tremendous collection of grandfather clocks, and when the protagonist sees Frank literally climbing out of one he is drawn to that clock, exploring an entire world that exists within it.
It is undoubtedly a fun concept, but the idea of a world existing within something right under our noses is nothing new, and the execution in this situation leaves plenty to be desired for. However, although the story is lacking, the layout and design of this book is absolutely exquisite. The rhythm and balance of each page is masterful both in terms of revealing the world through the eyes of the main character, and moving the story forward. There is an especially good balance of showing micro and macro views within the pages.
Color is another area that this book excels. Rather than focusing his art on detailed facial expressions, Hunter conveys tonal shifts in the story between neutral, mysterious, lively, and violent with simple alterations to the color palette.
Ultimately, for me this comes down to a matter of storytelling. Although there are some admirable aspects of the book with the layout and color, they fail to elevate the storytelling to something worthy of much attention. It’s worth a glance for those elements, but not much else.