It’s not everyday that a comic is launched alongside the perfume it inspired, but Lush is doing just that. On the Trail of Sandalwood Smugglers is inspired by the true story of buyers Agnes Gendry and Simon Constantine (two of the writers on the book). They decided to tell a tale of crime, danger, and, of course, sandalwood.
Simon and Agnes set off in search of a sustainable source of sandalwood trees to use for their products, taking them on a journey all around the world where they meet all kinds of characters, including the indigenous Kanak people of New Caledonia, who want their chief’s head back from the Paris Natural History Museum, a French sandalwood oil distiller, and possibly one of India’s biggest crime bosses.
Huge black and white panels and minimal dialogue on each page make On The Trail of Sandalwood Smugglers very easy on the eye but unfortunately limits plot development somewhat. But that does not seem to matter when the plot seems to solely consist of the pair looking for trees. It’s fifty-two pages can easily be read in a quick sitting, so its simplicity helps.
Eventually as our two heroes discover an illegal sandalwood operation, the plot starts starts to get more interesting, but a single comment about real life bandit Veerapan leads the entire next section to be a biography of his life, which while offering insight into the atrocious life of someone who most people in the West are unlikely to have of, does not seem to fit at all with the tone or plot of the rest of the story. However, it is still interesting, if a bit out of place.
The major problem with On The Trail of Sandalwood Smugglers is that it sees the world in very black and white (sorry) terms. People who offer sustainable and environmentally friendly supplies of sandalwood are good, people who offer sandalwood obtained via other methods are evil. End of. More development into the history and motives of the suppliers would have been useful to allow the reader to reach their own conclusions. In addition, but the end its unclear if they were actually successful in finding a wholly legal supplier.
Despite the clear moral intentions of the book, some surprisingly daring humour (is that a gun in his pocket or is he excited to see them?) finds its way through. Although for the most part it remains relatively family friendly, On The Trail of sandalwood Smugglers does occasionally dare to go that extra mile.
Don’t prepare to read On The Trail of Sandalwood Smugglers expecting a complex story filled with deep character development and a complex, twisting plot, but instead prepare to read something that can offer fun and humour in its short lifespan, and you won’t be disappointed.
On the Trail of Sandalwood Smugglers is available today at any Lush store!