This Land: When post-apocalyptic superheroes and atua Māori meet

This Land Book 1: The Search for Māui and This Land Book 2: The Fall of Tāne are graphic novels set in a near future, post-apocalyptic Aotearoa New Zealand that has been transformed by cataclysmic events.

The small number of survivors have been transformed by an event called The Fever and now have a variety of different skills, traits, and powers. 

The two books together tell a complete story that centres around the character of Hell’na of the Pāhuna, an iwi who emerged from the volcanic ruins of Auckland with hot skin and fire bending abilities. When Tane Mahuta falls from the sky, Hell’na is forced to join him in his search for the demigod Māui. Hell’na recruits a group of individuals with a variety of powers, resulting in a Superhero or X-men-like ensemble.

Visually these books are an absolute treat, richly drawn with lots of detail by P. R. Dedelis. Hell’na’s band of mutated misfits give ample opportunity for the artists to stretch themselves creatively, with their distinct looks really adding to their characters. A host of supernatural characters make appearances, and the taniwha was a real standout for me.

At first the story is a little hard to follow as it launches straight into the action with only a small introduction and the aspects of this strange new world are only revealed piece by piece. This is rectified at the start of book 2 with thorough scene setting and explanation. Scholastic have stated that ‘This Land’ is aimed at ages 10+ and I would say that that is an absolute minimum and perhaps 12+ would be more appropriate as there are mentions of substance abuse and the world building is quite sophisticated.

The books draw on many aspects of mātauranga Māori; with the strengths of the group influenced by different atua, use of te reo Māori throughout, and incorporating Māori visual art.

The introduction nicely sets the scene that this a new story, embracing contemporary storytelling whilst respecting what has come before, resulting in a beautifully illustrated story, set in a strange new world that touches on the familiar.

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Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre