Few ships or voyages have garnered as much attention as the RMS Titanic and its disastrous maiden voyage. At the time of its launch, the passenger liner was one of the largest, most opulent ships in the world, and it featured a new safety system which caused some people to declare the Titanic “unsinkable” (Tikkanen). Since its sinking, the Titanic has attracted even more fame thanks to books, movies, and an exhibit of artifacts recovered from the wreck. The Last Convert of John Harper by Art Ayris presents a brief picture of the life and ministry of Reverend John Harper and tells of the sinking of the Titanic, on which Harper was a passenger.
Neither the art nor the storytelling of The Last Convert of John Harper is exceptional. As I have noticed in other graphic novels about historical events, the style of this genre often harms the clarity of the story, and this is the case for parts of The Last Convert of John Harper. Nevertheless, the execution of the book is more than adequate, and the research the authors put into the book is evident. Above all, the story makes the book worth reading.
Born in Scotland, John Harper begins evangelizing at a young age. Art Ayris shows Harper’s journey from being a street evangelist to becoming a respected minister. In Glasgow, Scotland, Reverend Harper helps establish the Paisley Street Baptist Mission. Requested to be a guest minister at Moody Church in Chicago, John Harper travels to America and preaches there in the autumn of 1911. Following his return to Scotland, Moody Church asks Harper to return in the spring of 1912. John Harper accepts the offer and boards the Titanic with his daughter Nana and his sister Jessie. As Ayris reveals how Harper’s path leads him and his family to the Titanic, the author also highlights Harper’s multiple near-death experiences which precede his final voyage. Partway through the graphic novel, the focus shifts from John Harper to the construction of the Titanic and the convergence of lives on that fateful ship. The Last Convert of John Harper reveals the flaws in the Titanic’s construction and narrates the events and mistakes during her voyage which lead to her sinking and cost the lives of more than half her passengers and crew.
In the midst of the disaster, however, John Harper remains true to his calling. He continues to preach, sacrifices opportunities to escape the ship to safety, and impacts other people’s lives in ways that will change them forever.
Tikkanen, Amy. “Titanic.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2016. 18 July 2016. <www.britannica.com/topic/Titanic>.