Around the World

Written by Matt Phelan
Review by Ann Pedtke

At the turn of the century, Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days inspired the public imagination. Many adventurers set off to try the journey for themselves, some on foot, some by boat, and some using more novel, newly introduced means of transportation. Phelan’s funny and historically adept graphic novel Around the World chronicles three such journeys: that of Thomas Stevens, a former miner who decided to circumnavigate the globe by bicycle; that of Nellie Bly, a pioneer female reporter with an eye for a good publicity stunt; and that of Joshua Slocum, a retired sea captain who determined to set out on one last voyage.

Phelan goes beyond the spectacle of round-the-world travel to portray each adventurer as a fully developed character, emphasizing the personal demons each must conquer even as they face down more physical hurdles. Though the feisty Nellie Bly is my personal favorite, the audacious Thomas Stevens and soulful Joshua Slocum balance out the narrative well. The simple but telling facial expressions of Phelan’s characters are a delight, as is his light palette of colorful pastels. Phelan has combined his playful artistic style, his apt sense of narrative pacing, and his abiding respect for historical accuracy to create a funny and enlightening work.