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Good Read Column for August 23, 1998

Whiteout

Created and Written by
Greg Rucka
Illustrated and Lettered by
Steve Lieber
Whiteout
4-issue series, Oni Press
32 pages, $2.95

(of a possible five)

(ASSUME ALL STANDARD
SPOILER WARNINGS)



Oni Press strikes again. The more I see from this company, the more I admire editor Bob Schreck's taste. This one brings novelist Greg Rucka into the field, teaming him with Steve Lieber, who I'm sorry to admit I wasn't familiar with before this, although he's apparently been around.

It's a shame this is only a four-issue miniseries. On the one hand, I appreciate a story with a beginning, middle and end that doesn't just meander around like most ongoing comics series. On the other, I am really enjoying this, and would like to see more than four issues. Perhaps after it's done we could see another Rucka/Lieber team-up, possibly featuring the same main character (assuming she survives - not at all a sure thing at this point).

The story takes place on "the ice," a term of non-endearment for the continent of Antarctica. There are permanent bases on Antarctica, two American, one British and one Russian. In the comic (though not apparently in real life), there is a deputy marshall assigned to whatever meager law enforcement tasks might be found.

A place where wind chills can reach -70 degrees Centigrade (that's -94 Fahrenheit) is obviously not a plum assignment, and our protagonist, Marshall Carrie Stetko is not here because she's being rewarded. It's obviously a punishment post, though it's not exactly clear what she's being punished for.

What is clear is that she hates it here. Hates the ice, hates her life, hates everything. She's a bundle of anger and fury, stewing at this dead-end assignment in a place where nothing ever happens.

Until someone gets murdered.

More than one murder takes place, and somebody seems to be trying to keep Carrie Stetko from finding out why. By the end of the second issue, she's already survived an attempt to strand her in the frozen waste, an attempt that caused the loss of the first two fingers of her right hand.

We also get a glimpse in this second issue of something in her past that may have been the reason for her posting. And this is a good chance to put in a plug for Steve Lieber's stark black-and-white art, which is perfect for this tale. His method for presenting Stetko's hallucinatory flashbacks is simple yet extremely effective. As the panels alternate occasionally between Stetko unaware of her present reality and what is going on inside her head, you couldn't possibly mistake which is which - often a problem with this kind of exposition. It's a rather obvious technique, once you see it (and no, I won't tell you what he does - go out and buy the comic), but it's only obvious in retrospect. Lieber had to think of it (unless Rucka suggested it in the script, in which case he deserves at least partial credit, but Lieber still had to pull it off).

All in all, this is a well-written and well-drawn comic. I can't say a murder mystery is exactly breaking new ground in the medium, but this isn't your typical private-eye yarn, and Carrie Stetko is a fascinating protagonist. An enthusiastic thumbs up to the team-up of Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, and I hope this isn't the last comic they do together.


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