Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey: A Graphic Novel

In the author's note at the beginning, Nick Bertozzi acknowledges that this book should by rights be much longer, but if he had done that, his hand would have fallen off.

Ernest Shackleton would have done it.

Just kidding, Mr. Bertozzi. Although I do feel that I would have liked this a lot more had it been longer and more detailed,Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey, as it stands, is a good introduction to the Shackleton story of the Endurance (in more ways than one). 

I like that it's just black ink drawings on white paper--a good match for the Antarctic setting. 

The beginning of the graphic novel is much stronger than the ending. Bertozzi provides us with many vignettes of life aboard the Endurance and the ice floes. There's a mock trial, a dog escape, and a bicycle ride across the ice! I'm more impressed with the sheer, ahem, well, bada**ery of the dudes who decided to (willingly!) go to the Antarctic and eat seals! The bicycle ride thing was the clincher, man. I mean, people of the days of yore just went out and rode their bicycles across the Antarctic ice whilst stranded and while the ship is breaking apart and you could be dying. Holy moly. Came back for a spot of tea, I suppose. 

But it's those stories that make these parts of Shackleton so interesting, and not necessarily the art of the telling of the stories. I had difficulty distinguishing Shackleton from the other crew members in the panels, so I'm not quite sure how this is being touted as semi-biographical. Bertozzi uses a lot of terms that sailors would know but that I don't know. *checks self* Nope, am not a sailor. I figured out that a "lead" is like a crack in the ice, but thank goodness for pictures!

The latter third of the novel was much more confusing, with people being on ice, then in boats, then on ice, then they're in the sea, then on an island, and hooray saved end of book finis. I felt like we hit the brakes and I got some literary whiplash there. The endnote tells the reader very little about what happened afterwards, and it's hard to connect the names of the sailors with their images in the book. 

Also, I was sorely disappointed that Mrs. Chippy the cat made nary an appearance in the book. The shooting of Mrs. Chippy (oops, spoiler?) along with the sled dogs would really explain McNish's bad attitude later in the book (McNish owned Mrs. Chippy, who was in fact a tomcat).


Overall, a good introduction, and something that might pique people's interest in the Endurance and Shackleton and his crew. 

I received a review copy from First Second Books in exchange for my honest review.

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