Writer: Greg Rucka
Artist: Steve Leiber
Publisher: Oni Press
What's it about?
Carrie Stetko is a US Marshall based in Antarctica. One of up to 1200 residents she is responsible for law and order on the ice and has made this inhospitable place her permanent home. Tough, prone to swearing and generally quite pissed off she is a determined character and demands respect.
Then a body is discovered on the ice. Next to it are several drill holes. A murder investigation is launched and Stetko has 2 weeks to discover who is responsible, before 90% of the population leaves for the winter. Then to make things more complicated, British Lily Sharp arrives, and it isn't clear whether she'll be a help or a hindrance.
This book was made into a film in 2009, starring Kate Beckinsale. The Lily Sharpe role was cast as a man.
What's good about it?
Volume 1of 2, this is a solid story in which the pace moves surprisingly quickly. For only 120 pages it covers a lot of ground. It feels well researched and character relationships and hierarchies are built up quickly and believably. This a maturely developed, well planned and well delivered tight story.
There is some lesbian subtext in the book - I'm not sure if the creators meant this or not - around Stetko's and Sharpe's relationship. Of course, many people might not consider lesbian subtext a good thing, or you might not even see it. It's certainly not overt, there's no longing gazes or lingering hands, but there is something there. I reckon that seeing as both are pretty great heroines in their own right, when viewed through a queer lens they can only become a whole lot more interesting.
What's bad about it?
The action races along and it feels like the end arrives very quickly, which is only a shame as you're left wanting to read more. Then a solution arises - there's a second volume out, subtitled, Melt! So if you're thirsty for more, it is out there.
Without giving away any spoilers, there are a couple of scenes that deal with sexual assault, which some readers may find triggering and others may find distasteful. In my view it doesn't ruin the book but I am left wondering what the need to include it was.
What's the art like?
It's all in black and white and it's very much suited to the bleakness of Antartica.
Within the afterword the artist describes the materials he used, including brushes, charcoal paint, pencils, razors and sandpaper. It's clear that Leiber poured his heart and soul into this book to get it just right, and the effort payed off. It's got just the right feel for the setting.
Amazon UK offers a sneak peek inside the book here. If you like this, try volume 2 or look for other books by Greg Rucka, we have a few here.