Review – Arctic Comics (Renegade Arts Entertainment)
Publisher: Renegade Arts Entertainment
Writer(s): Nicholas Burns, Jose Kusugak, Michael Kusugak
Artwork: Germaine Arnaktauyok, George Freeman, Susan Thurston Shirley
Release Date: 19th April, 2016
Originally planned to be released at 1992 (yes, 1992!) World Exposition in Spain, Artic Comics is a collection of stories from a variety of Inuit writers and artists (as well as other Northerners who live, or have lived, in the Arctic).
Finally seeing the light of day in 2016 thanks to Renegade Arts Entertainment, this volume features several different styles, from sequential art retellings of classic Inuit folk tales to short, snappy, “newspaper strip” style gags. As with almost all anthologies, the quality varies somewhat from strip to strip, but the diverse nature of the stories and artistic styles on display means that there’s likely to be something here to suit almost any taste.
The collection opens with the first of two one-page strips featuring “Sheldon the Sled Dog”, who always seems getting into some kind of mishap or other. The artwork, provided by Nicholas Burns, is suitably cartoony, and while the gags themselves are fairly basic, the strips definitely serve as a useful palate cleanser between the larger ‘courses’.
“Kiviuq meets Big Bee” retells the Inuit legend of Kiviuq, the “first man”, as his adventures see him crossing paths with a strange woman with a sinister secret. Jose Kusugak provides the interpretation of the story, and an interpretation is all it is, given the apparent ambiguity in Inuit names. It’s a fairly light tale, rich with cheesy comedy and mild horror, although – unlike a lot of legends from other cultures – there doesn’t actually seem to be much of a moral to this particular story. Kiviuq is referred to as the “Inuit Odysseus”, and his heroism as he tries to survive and find his way home from these strange lands make this a brisk, fairly compelling tale. Germaine Arnaktauyok provides the artwork here, and while there’s a definite roughness and more than a hint of a surrealism to her style, it works well as part of this somewhat ‘out there’ tale.
“On Waiting” follows a young boy hunting seals – or rather, waiting to hunt seals. As he passes the time waiting for a seal to pop its head out of the water, his mind starts to wander and he finds himself reminiscing about some of his happier memories, including he and his friends dancing and playing soccer beneath the northern lights. We find out a little bit about the Inuit interpretation of what the lights really are, before ending with a moving recollection of the boy’s grandfather dying while on a hunting trip of his own. Written by Michael Kusugak with artwork from Susan Thurston Shirley, this story blends compelling visuals and a touching character piece, all framed with a distinctive Inuit style.
“The Great Softball Massacre”, from Nicholas Burns, sees young romance take a turn for the worse during a corporate slo-pitch softball tournament. It’s a little drawn-out at sixteen pages, and while Burns’ sense of humour shines through in his Sheldon the Sled Dog strips, the smiles are few and far between here, and aside from a neat sequence with massive hailstones, this is a fairly forgettable addition to the collection, for me at least.
“Film Nord”, once again by Nicholas Burns, is a slapstick whodunit that feels a little uneven in places, featuring a madcap movie director trying to get to the bottom of the series of bizarre occurrences that are happening on his set. While the artwork is charming enough, the story doesn’t have much of a punch to it, and the final reveal falls more than a little flat. We end on a high, however, with my favourite strip of the entire collection, “Blizzard House” which tells the tale of a young man working in “Wyndham”, an eco-friendly house of the future that seems to be rubbing some of the local power corporations the wrong way. Featuring a truly worthy environmental message and some bold, dynamic artwork George Freeman, this is easily the most exciting, dramatic and – possible – the most relevant of all the stories in the collection.
Overall then, while it can be more than a little hit and miss at times, the bulk of stories here – as well as the impressively assembled Inuit and Arctic-dwelling creative team – make this a truly worthwhile read. Silly humour, light-hearted fables, moving recollections and environmental-themed action, Arctic Comics has it all.
You can purchase Arctic Comics from Turnaround Publisher Services (who generously provided the review copy of this title) via their official website
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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