Billy Johnson & His Duck Are Explorers Review

By | Monday, July 20, 2020 Leave a Comment
Billy Johnson & His Duck Are Explorers
I came across Mathew New's Billy Johnson and His Duck Are Explorers a few years back in its original single issue form. In fact, I believe there was only the first single issue completed at the time. In that first adventure, we meet Billy and his duck Barrace (pronounced Bare-riss) mid-adventure as they're trying to find the map to a fabled monkey kingdom. Without any planning, or apparently much expertise, the two do indeed find the monkey kingdom's ruins... only to lose any evidence of it in a volcanic eruption. Billy is actually just a young teen, trying to live up to the reputation of his parents, who were prestigious members of the Explorers League. And while Barrace is "his duck", he's actually an accomplished university linguistics professor who's "familiar with all ancient systems of writing."

The book reprints the now four individual issues, with each chapter following a pretty self-contained adventure. While the setting is contemporary, the stories feel a little like the escapades of a young Indiana Jones. Not the TV show, but the River Phoenix sequence at the start of the third movie where he's still optimistic and does what's right, somewhat comedically fails his way forward, and still eventually succeeds his quest... only to lose the treasure to circumstance at the proverbial finish line. New doesn't seem to try to borrow against any Indiana Jones plots or shtick, but the general approach has a similar tenor. With the addition of a talking duck. So somewhere between Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Adventure Time. All of which is to say that it's a fun book and having all the installments between one set of covers is most welcome -- especially since I didn't even realize New had completed issues 3 and 4!

While the stories are fairly self-contained, as I said, there is an over-arching narrative as well. One of their encounters in the first chapter pops up again in the background of the other three, and some of the elements from the first chapter show up in the second and third. And there's an epilogue to the book, too, that helps to tie things together somewhat as well as promise further adventures. New manages to balance the individual story adventures with a broader narrative, and I'm definitely interested to see how everything ultimately pulls together.

And from what I've seen, it'll not only be a satisfying story but a heck of a fun ride to boot!

Billy Johnson and His Duck Are Explorers officially drops on August 1 from Capstone and retails for $15.99. Well worth checking out, both for yourself and any young adults in your life!
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