REVIEW: The Unsinkable Walker Bean

The Unsinkable Walker Bean 


Written and illustrated by Aaron Renier

Colors by Alec Longstreth 

$13.99 / 192 Pages / Full Color 


First Second Press 



The Unsinkable Walker Bean might be the first all-ages graphic novel to tackle the very real problem of giant lobster witches. While they're certainly alluded to, at least vaguely, in other all-ages comics like Owly and From Hell, the issue really comes to a slow simmer in this sweeping introductory volume of a new series by writer/artist Aaron Renier. But giant lobster witches are not the only taboo subject on the menu. Renier also addresses meddlesome talking skulls, rogue aye-ayes, the oft discussed but rarely resolved question of scurvy in career pirates and, of course, the steampunk. All together it's one of the most dense and imaginative comics for children I've read in recent years, and I'm just slightly perturbed Renier didn't think to publish it twenty years ago when I was still naive to the fact that the neighborhood cats were using my sandbox as a public lavatory. 

This is the story of a boy named Walker Bean, who for much of the story is honestly quite sinkable. He's a bit of a puss, really, and does spend much of his time weeping thumb-sized tears and cartwheeling into Daffy Duck level tantrums. But then his beloved grandfather, a maritime adventurer turned storyteller, is so sick he's literally turned seafoam green. A curse has been levied, and it's up to Walker to right some cosmic wrongs. This involves a stolen skull which speaks in violent red tones only Walker seems to hear. It also involves a pair of witches who may once have been lovely topless mermaids. These days they're hideous behemoths, cast down to the lightless depths, blind with rage and ready to tussle with any vessel so unlucky as to sail over their gnarly carapaces. It's a lot for one boy, even with some newfound pirate friends and a faithful hound named Perogi by his side.

It's also a lot for one volume, but Renier seems to embrace overabundance. It took me several sittings to complete a single reading of the book, but in the end I gleaned the satisfaction of having read a novel or several comic volumes instead of just the one. It's a rich book, and I think it's meant to be read before a number of bedtimes. If you have a kid, you should invest in a very large chair and sit with this book wide open on a lap. While Renier's busy pages seem a bit crude or unrefined, they're brimming with energy and detail. There are many pages with eight or nine panels that reminded me of a Tintin adventure. But there are also more than a few that harkened to Where's Waldo spreads with bustling marketplaces or impossibly crowded observatories. The ideas are huge, ranging from the surreal and terrifying sea monsters to the whimsical pirate ship with it's above deck garden of lemon tree and swaying hammock. It might be a little scary for younger kids, but there's a sense of wonder and bravado that ought to entertain just about anybody. 

If I leave you with any kind of impression about this book, I hope it's that it's BIG. The start of a bright and imaginative quest rife with myth and magic as wide as an ocean or the star-strewn sky. 




Story: 4    Art: 4     Overall: 4


The Unsinkable Walker Bean is available now. Pull it!


  1. SOLD

  2. I’M IN

  3. Looks good. My library has it on order, so I was able to add myself to the list. I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the review!

    Is it just me or does this art style remind anyone else of Craig Thompson’s work? That’s not a complaint as I enjoy Thompson, but was just curious.

  4. @Paul I really do appreciate how much effort you put into exposing us to things that Ron, Josh, and Conor don’t have time to cover.  I’ve had a lot of fun reading many of your recommendations.

  5. Picked this up a week or so ago. Fantastic…If you like Reiner’s stuff, check out Spiral Bound…

  6. It’s really exciting to me that we live in a time when, slowly but surely, a slew of fantastic all-ages OGN’s are being released. 

    It seriously makes me want to get to the point in my life when I can look forward to and then share works like "The Unsinkable Walker Bean" with my children as bedtime stories 🙂

    Thanks for another great article, Paul! 

  7. Just finished this book and I really loved it. It’s a great action adventure tale with a lot of fantasy elements. I was a bit disappointed on the ending, as I felt there were a number of loose ends, but there is a little teaser at the end saying that there will be a book 2 at some point. The main plot is resolved well though.

    From a story-telling standpoint, I really enjoyed Renier’s work. When there were big moments, a full page splash was used. This happened a few times and the moments he picked for these were spot-on. It really conveyed the sense of size and scope at those times. Really enjoyable.