White Death original softcover graphic novel
Writer: Robbie Morrison
Artist: Charlie Adlard
Price: $12.95 US
I see Image Comics released a hardcover edition of this graphic novel at the end of August. I didn’t pick it up, mainly because I already have a softcover edition of the book. Indy publisher AiT/PlanetLar originally published this creator-owned graphic novel back in 2002, and I was a devotee of AiT/PlanetLar books at the time. I’ve been writing comics reviews for a long time, and I recalled I already penned some thoughts about this book 12 years ago. Rather than write a new review, I found the original review, which I’ve reproduced below (with a couple of minor edits). When I was reviewing on TheFourthRail.com at the time, I wrote many more reviews each week and wrote in a much more brief format than I do today.
When I saw this solicited in Previews, I figured, ‘What the hey.’ I enjoyed Adlard’s art, and publisher Larry Young has a solid track record. I’ve been wanting to wade into more original graphic novels and collected editions lately anyway. Little did I know I was ordering one of the most amazing war comics I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Those who enjoyed and appreciated the craft behind Garth Ennis’s recent War Story one-shots will be awe-struck by the quality and vivid storytelling and characterization to be found in White Death.
Along the Austrian-Italian border during the First World War, droves of soldiers fight cold and horrible battles, right in the middle of it all is Pietro Aquasanta. The native of an Austrian province but boasting an Italian background, he once fought for Austrians and now fights for the other side. Hounded by a malevolent commanding officer, he is forced use nature itself against the enemy.
Adlard’s gaunt approach to characters and gritty style suits the tone of this grisly war story perfectly. The lack of color also brings out the dreary and frigid aspects of the story and settings. What really impressed me visually, though, were the grey tones. Adlard’s art gains a greater depth and texture to the convincing people and place we meet and see in this book.
Morrison selects some challenging subject matter here, and not just emotionally. There are historical, cultural and technical complexities to the premise and settings, but the writer manages to convey them all with seeming ease, making for an accessible and enlightening read. The descriptions of avalanches being employed against an enemy was vivid, as was the narration’s focus on how dangerous, unpredictable and even immoral such warfare could be.
At its heart, though, this is a story about the human heart and the unseen wounds it sustains in the midst of something as horrifying and real as war. This is a brutally emotional story. I stagger at the reality that Morrison presents here. I can’t imagine how a human being could survive — either physically or psychologically — the events depicted here. Every page of this tragedy, with its well-developed and varied characters, made me pleased to live the life I have, one in which there seems to be little worry about having to go to war myself. 10/10
2014 comments: Adlard was a mainstay of AiT/PlanetLar titles at the time this was originally published, and it’s interesting to see how his style has developed over the years. His popularity as the regular artist on The Walking Dead is no doubt a major factor in the re-release of this book under the Image banner today. I also have to point out I much prefer the cover art and design on the original edition (at top) over the new edition (lower image). It’s also worth noting that the new edition is a hardcover with a price of $14.99 US — a pretty good value as compared to the 12-year-old softcover edition’s price point.
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