Whiteout Vol. 1 (The Definitive Edition)
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Steve Lieber
Oni Press, 2007
I kept hearing that Whiteout is being made into a movie and since I’ve enjoyed Rucka’s work on Superman (a comic I’d normally steer clear of) as of late figured I’d give this one a shot. It helped that I managed to pick it up at BEA though only rediscovered tucked away on a bookshelf just this month. I have a fondness for the stories featuring the barren arctic (Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night on the opposite hemisphere and Lovecraft’s epicly awesome At the Mountains of Madness being two favorites; not to mention the ever classic Carpenter version of The Thing)there is something wondrous about the setting. Maybe it is the beauty combined with the constant struggle for survival that somehow manages to evoke a certain bleakness of tone that I always find particularly compelling.
In this case the story is a murder mystery/thriller that takes some hard-boiled/noirish tropes and transposes them to the harshness of the Antarctic continent. U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko is a sort of exile, banished to serve down in the Antarctic as punishment for an earlier botched mission. Stetko is haunted by her past, battling with alcoholism as well as the loneliness and desperation of the ice. Being on an entirely different continent doesn’t stop Stetko from being harassed by her boss and I suppose no detective story would really be complete without our hero being harassed by an authority figure. When an American turns up dead on the ice it is up to Stetko to uncover the the truth behind his murder.
Stetko is a splendidly drawn character both in terms of written characterization and artistic interpretation. Small in stature she gives the appearance of being weighted down by bother her past and her environment yet in word and action consistently proves she’s a fighter. Her face-to-face confrontations with the mysterious Lily were particularly well-drawn the stoic faced, and much-taller, brit being confronted by the smaller and more wily Stetko was some great stuff.
I was also surprised by a certain amount of sexual ambiguity emplyed throughout the graphic novel. Stetko comments, and other characters around her comment, not only on the loneliness of their environment but on the ridiculous ration of men to women (stated at being around 400 to 1). Despite commenting on one attraction to a male weather station worker (or maybe I read that wrong) there is a undeniable chemistry between Lily and Stetko. Perhaps I was slightly biased by a comment made by Lily towards the middle of novel but it seemed to me there was a certain amount of attraction between the two characters; or maybe I’m misreading the mutual respect that seems to the develop between the two as something more than simply what it is. Then again the final panel and closing narration, to me at least, speaks of something a bit more.
Of course don’t expect that sexual ambiguity and emotional subtlety to come across in the film version, in typical Hollywood fashion, the movie version replaces Lily with a male lead; a rather cowardly move in my opinion. And, if the trailer is any indication director Dominic Sena and FOUR SCREENWRITERS turned what should be a taught, tense moody thriller into something more action-oriented. I’m almost hoping it fails miserably (Rotten Tomatoes has it at 2%, ha!). If, however, you are a fan of taught crime-thrillers then I heartily recommend you track down a copy of Whiteout Vol. 1 and give it a try.