Land of Sokmunster

By Mike Kunkel and Randy Heuser
56 pages, color
Published by The Astonish Factory

There are probably a million jokes about where socks that go missing in the dryer end up… possibly two million. Just when I thought I’d seen every permutation, though, along came Mike Kunkel and Randy Heuser’s The Land of Sokmunster. The idea of a land full of lost socks isn’t the big hook that got me, mind you; it’s how Kunkel and Heuser use it as the core of an adorable story about responsibility and friendship.

When Sam gets in a lot of trouble with his parents, they decide to teach him a lesson about responsibility, entrusting him with a rare “buffalo” nickel that he has to take care of; if he succeeds, he gets to go with friends to the all-new water park. Everything’s going well for Sam until a stray sock steals the nickel and escapes through a lint screen. Chasing after the nickel, Sam ends up in the land of the Sokmunsters, where he quickly discovers that if he’s going to get his nickel back, he’s got to stop the dreaded Moths first.

Kunkel and Heuser’s story in The Land of Sokmunster is one of those rare books where I think adults and children alike will enjoy reading the book. While it’s certainly suitable for younger readers to enjoy Sam and Spike’s journey to Mothgonia, it’ll say a lot to adults about values and principles with which to live your life. Above all else, though, it’s just fun. The Land of Sokmunster knows when to dwell on key moments of Sam and Spike’s journey, as well as when it’s important to move forward with the plot in a couple of pages. Sam and Spike learning to trust each other as they travel to Mothgonia, for instance, would have been excruciating if every single encounter on their trip was shown in explicit detail. Instead, by zooming through the trip in five pages, the story never feels slow and keeps the reader’s interest.

As fun as the story is, the art is even nicer. There’s no credit given for how Kunkel and Heuser split up the workload, but if I had to guess I’d think that Heuser drew the classroom framing sequence while Kunkel drew the art from Sam’s book that he’s drawn about his adventures. Both artists are talented in their own right and complement each other’s work. Heuser’s art is nicely finished and crisp, while still displaying a level of quirkiness in how he draws Sam’s fellow classmates. Kunkel, meanwhile, draws Sam’s adventure like Sam would have drawn it (complete with lined-paper backgrounds), with rougher character designs, yet with an amazing amount of energy and inventiveness. My favorite sequence (and it’s hard to pick one) has to be the previously-mentioned five pages that show Sam and Spike’s trip to Mothgonia. Each page is drawn as a series of rolling hills, and as you look from one hill to the next it’s another encounter that the two of them have to get by to reach their goal. It’s a clever way to cram so much story into so few pages, but still make you feel like you’ve gotten more than your money’s worth.

The Land of Sokmunster is a gorgeous book from start to finish, both in writing and in art. I enjoyed Kunkel’s Herobear and the Kid a great deal, but I think his work here has improved by leaps and bounds. He and Heuser have drawn a book that I’ll be giving to lots of people for gifts in the near future, because once you read The Land of Sokmunster you’ll want to share the fun. Highly recommended.

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