Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Whiteout Volume One by Greg Rucka & Steve Lieber

With time running out to complete the 2010 Global Reading Challenge and desperation setting in, I am turning to the graphic novel to meet the Antarctica component of the challenge.

I was happy to find that the writer/illustrator team of Rucka and Lieber had created two graphic novels with U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko exiled to McMurdo Station (Mactown) for a past transgression that could have put her in jail for a long time. Antartica might not be that bad. Carrie is also the only law and the only one authorized to carry a weapon on the continent.

As this action thriller opens, Carrie and the station doctor are looking at a body, frozen to the ice, the face obliterated. Five men were in the party, this is the only body. Who is he, where are the others, and why is the body surrounded by core sample holes. As Carrie launches her investigation, other people die and Carrie is attacked, several times. Something happened out on the ice that person or persons unknown do not want revealed.

Whiteout was nominated for several awards -- "Best Writer","Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team" and "Best Limited Series,Eisner Awards, and in 2000 it was nominated for the "Best Graphic Album" Eisner Award (Wikipedia). The 2009 movie, on the other hand, was panned. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 7% approval.

I thought the McGuffin -- what was found on the ice -- was implausible and the weakest part of the story. Despite that weakness (my perception), which only shows up at the end, it deserved all the award nominations. Rucka's lean writing and Lieber's stark illustrations blended to make an exciting read.

I do not read many graphic novels and am selective what I choose to purchase. What I admire about a good graphic novel, like Whiteout, is the ability to convey so much in so little space. Several panels in a graphic novel can represent a page or more of written text. The eye has to take in the illustrations, the words, and the way the words are lettered. The reader has to supply the description for what the eye sees in the illustration. The illustrator has to create a scene that matches what a writer is trying to describe, The letterer has to convey the emotion of the words. It is a remarkable collaborative achievement to create a good graphic novel.

Highly recommended IF you like graphic novels AND you like action thrillers.