Monday, September 19, 2011


Listed in "500 Essential Graphic Novels" as: Crime/Mystery (Top 10)
Contains: Whiteout #1-4
Year: 1998
Publisher: Oni Press
Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Steve Lieber

Hello, faithful Comics Questers.  Sorry it's been a few days.  I had a rather lazy weekend, then got wrapped up in (fantasy) football, napped, and battled a headache.  But anyway...

Here we are at our second "Top 10" pick of Mr. Kannenberg's great book and the first I've reviewed labelled "Crime/Mystery".  Let's take a quick look at Whiteout.

We open at the "Bottom of the world. Antarctica."  Tortured U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko, whose husband passed from cancer less than a year after they were married and who killed a violent prisoner once upon a time, has come here to perhaps forget all those awful things.  She is, after all, though, an agent of the law and will continue to come upon her share of violence.  As the story opens, she's crouched over a dead body.

As you can see, the body is intensely frozen in the arctic ice and the face is mutilated.  We come to find out that the killer is one of five males in hundreds on "the Ice" (which is what the folks who live here call Antarctica).  Marshal Stetko begins investigating, but it seems everything and everyone may be against her.  Attempts at killing her and seeming double-crosses keep her hands full as she seeks her suspect.

Writer Greg Rucka has penned a good, solid story with compelling characters here.  U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko is a great character, dishing it out to those who'd stand in her way and struggling with the memories of her tormented past against a backdrop that matches her cold demeanor.  We never know whether the characters that she's interacting with are ultimately plotting to help her or to hinder her and Rucka (along with Lieber's art) keeps the tale taut and exciting.

Lieber's art is gritty, cold, dark, and sets the perfect mood for this mystery in Antarctica.  He goes into great detail about how the art came to fruition in a bit of extra material in the back of the volume, giving a bit of insight into the tools of the trade of making artwork of this caliber. 

As I said, the story is good and solid and I really loved some of the characters, especially Carrie Stetko.  She was tough, funny, mouthy, and relentless in the search for the killer.  A truly realistic and memorable character.

In the end, though, plotwise, this one isn't really all that groundbreaking.  We've got pretty much your run-of-the-mill murder mystery, only with very interesting characters.  Despite the very fine points that both creators have worked in here, the end result may not be something I'd deem "essential" and certainly not at the top of that heap. 

And with that, a short volume gets a short review. 

My final opinion: Even sensational characters, fantastically visually represented yet interacting in a run-of-the-mill plot equal middle of the road for this reader.

Mr. Kannenberg's rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 3 out of 5
10 down, 490 to go

Come back next time when we'll have a little "Fun with Milk and Cheese".  Be well and we'll see you then.


  1. Reading this post and hearing you praise the main character made me wonder if there has ever been a series of graphic novels that focused on a main character, but did a series of books, putting that character into different situations. Kinda like Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme novels. If not, that is something that would definitely appeal to me. This sounds cool and while I doubt I'll be reading it anytime soon, it does kind of make me want to check out the film. Great work dude, keep it up!!

  2. Yeah, Marshal Carrie Stetko in this one was great. The plot just, I don't know, it didn't set anything on fire for me. This isn't a bad story by ANY means. It's just missing something as far as I'm concerned.

    As far as the series of books, if you mean focusing on ONE main character, there are plenty.

    Personal favorites of mine as far as prose goes would be Anne Rice's "The Vampire Chronicles", which MAINLY focuses on Lestat, and Orson Scott Card's Enderverse books, which again take brief breaks in focusing on Ender, but are mostly about him. Even if horror and sci-fi aren't your bag, these are some of the most beloved and real characters in all the fiction I've read.

    Also, Lehane's "Kenzie/Gennaro" books are pretty good, if you're ever in the mood to take in some good, solid mystery.

    As always, thanks for reading, bro. You keep the comments comin' and I'll do my best to post reviews as frequently as I can.

  3. Oh yeah, I'm definitely aware of the Vampire Chronicles and the Ender books, but what I meant was a series of GRAPHIC novels that have a main character, but not necessarily a continuing plot point. For example, if Rucka were to write another graphic novel, using the character of Stetko and setting it somewhere completely different and having it be an entirely different mystery.

    Also, I got to thinking, when was this written? It seems to me that the idea of a murder mystery set in a cold climate has kind of been done to death, at least in the medium of film. "Fargo" and "Insomnia" jump to mind quickly.

  4. Well, this one is from 1998. Are "Fargo" and "Insomnia" from before that? I think they are, aren't they? I've seen both of those, though, and to be fair this has quite a different feel from either of them.

    As far as graphic novels that focus on one character, I'm sure there are plenty. There is a volume 2 of Whiteout, entitled "Melt". It also features Carrie Stetko from what I'm told. Another thing is, and perhaps I didn't make it clear enough in the review: there are other characters that get a bit of the spotlight, but Carrie is just the main protagonist.

    I'm sure there are tons of others, though none spring to mind readily. Hellblazer?

    There are a ton of books that focus MOSTLY on one character. Take any superhero book that has the name of one character as the title. And I'm sure that there are comics in other genres that focus MOSTLY on one character, but perhaps the medium isn't geared towards just focusing on ONLY one character with NO support from any others... Or perhaps the books are out there and I haven't come across them yet...