Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Northwest Passage

Why aren't there more books like Scott Chantler's Northwest Passage? I'm not speaking rhetorically, either ... it's a mystery why this rip-roaring historical adventure stands pretty much alone. Loosely based on the history of the Hudson Bay Company (and therefore, the formation of Canada itself), it feels like the sort of Young Men's Adventure that used to inhabit the pages of Boys' Life or most of the Young Adults section of the library as I was growing up. It's fun while managing to be educational, and Chantler has a strong sense of serial pacing, with numerous plot threads running and weaving among each other's cliffhangers.

The tone of the series is set with the descriptions given on the covers of the first two volumes: "Two-Fisted Historical Adventure" and "Pulse-Pounding Western Action". It's like Chantler had these tattooed on his hands while creating these books, because he never loses sight of that goal: a thrilling action-adventure that just happens to have a historical basis. There's no revisionist history here, and even the characterization is somewhat simple and light: this isn't a lecture, a period piece, or a character drama. The fantastic art style is important in keeping the tone with lots of rich detail in the costumes and settings, but a clear eye on action and bold characters. It's reminiscent in many ways of the blocky style used in the Dini/Timm DC cartoons with clear, bold lines and open faces that express a lot of emotion.

Has something fundamentally changed? The death of the young comics buyer is no new topic, but Northwest Passage really made me think: Is "Youth Adventure" a dead genre, where even an outstanding example is neglected? I'm glad to see that the Shuster Awards recognized Chantler's talent, and I hope to see that recognition grow as further volumes are released in this series. Northwest Passage is a great mix that hits a real storytelling "sweet spot", managing to combine fact and fiction and some larger themes while always remaining a compulsive page-turner.



joncormier said...

Apparently everyone in the world but me is getting the second issue of this series. I loved the first one and have been hounding the LCS for #2 and it's just not arriving or they secretly dispise me.

Mark Fossen said...

It's been out a few months now.

Even Amazon/ seem to have some issues with shipping it ... 's too bad, #2 is a great read.

Anonymous said...

Amazon is able to ship NWP #2, but they have to order it from Diamond.

Diamond has plenty in stock so your local comic shop should be able to order it.

If that all fails, we have it for sale on the Oni Press website.

Randal C. Jarrell
managing editor

Mark Fossen said...

Well ... how's that for getting a straight answer? :)

joncormier said...

All right, I'm "raising hell" at the LCS. And by "raising hell" I mean "asking politely."