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‘Antarctica: Vol. 1: Out in The Cold’ TPB (review)

Written by Simon Birks
Art by Willi Roberts
Published by Top Cow/
Image Comics

 

Antarctica is the fifth largest continent in the world and at its annual peak has no more than 5000 residents, mostly scientists and researchers.

Antarctica is also the title of the new Top Cow/Image graphic novel collection by Scottish comics writer Simon Birks and illustrator Willi Roberts, from Argentina.

The book’s cool (no pun intended), stylized logo is presumably designed by its letterer, Lyndon White, who actually gets co-credit on the cover.

Let me say right up front that I particularly admire Roberts’ illustrative style on the cover and all of his single illustrations in the book. That same style, of course, shows up throughout the rest of Antarctica as well, with the caveat that his storytelling skills sometimes lost me.

There were a number of spots throughout the story where I felt lost and it seemed to be the lack of a coherent panel to panel flow. Also, some characters looked too much alike and I presumed one male character to be female until a point when his gender becomes important to the plot. A couple miscolored panels don’t help the issue.

And what is that plot, you ask? Well, imagine John Carpenter’s The Thing with the currently popular concept of parallel worlds in a multiverse and you’ll be close. Our heroine is Hannah, whose life goes to pieces when her beloved father, who worked on assignments in the frozen wastes of the South Pole in Antarctica, doesn’t come home after one trip. We aren’t told where her mother is, nor who is taking care of her during the childhood years where we see her as a little girl regularly welcoming him home. We also aren’t told until later in the story about someone else in the house—too young, also, to be the caretaker.

Hannah grows up homeless but street smart and tough, and one day meets a young man who wants nothing from her and yet offers her aid and hope. His altruistic believing in her helps her to determine to find her father in Antarctica.

Unfortunately, all of this, although well-written and drawn as individual scenes, is paced way too fast to feel at all believable. In the story, though, she makes it down south to join a team already there, only to find that team’s members in the midst of a crisis involving duplicates of themselves.

As noted, Birks’ writing works best in scenes rather than in the full story. Some of the scenes are very cinematic and beautifully carried off. Between the writing and the art, though, especially once the duplicates come into the picture, the plot gets very convoluted. This being the first volume, too, it is neither fully explained nor is there an explanation as to what her father had been doing or whatever had happened to him. We end, as happens far too often in these types of books, on a cliffhanger.

The back of the book offers a gallery of cover variants and additional artwork by both Roberts and various other illustrators. I could be incorrect but I believe the listing of who drew what in this section is slightly off. My favorite—and, in fact, my favorite art from the entire book—is issue # 2’s Cover B which, according to the Internet, is by Rahsan Ekedal.

A Process Gallery, a Designs Gallery, and capsule biographies of Antarctica’s creators finish out the book on interesting notes.

All in all, this is another tough one to evaluate. I did enjoy reading Antarctica, despite what I saw as its not insignificant flaws. The characters are mostly intriguing despite my character confusion at times. The character of Matteo looks just like Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen character the Comedian. There are some very modern twists to some of the people in the story and that keeps scenes from being too cliché. There’s genuine tension in many scenes despite an almost by-the-numbers feel in others.

In the end, I had to ask myself, “Do I care enough about these people to want to know what happens to them next?” I answered yes! Which means…

Booksteve recommends!

 

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