How to Sur­vive in the North

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Graphic Novels -

Luke Healy, No­brow Press, Hard­cover $22.95 (192pp) 978-1-910620-06-9

Luke Healy weaves the mes­mer­iz­ing but dis­parate tales of two ex­pe­di­tions to the Arc­tic a hun­dred years ago, and a mod­ern-day col­lege pro­fes­sor fac­ing a scan­dal, in his stun­ning de­but graphic novel, How to Sur­vive in the North.

Healy’s art and nar­ra­tive style is el­e­gant, rem­i­nis­cent of Herge’s clas­sic Tintin books, but while the Arc­tic ad­ven­tures some­what fit that mold, the con­tem­po­rary story—a pro­fes­sor’s af­fair with a stu­dent, and its reper­cus­sions—is more adult fare, which might bring into ques­tion the book’s rec­om­mended read­er­ship be­ing listed as Grade 4 and up.

Each of the sto­ries is com­pelling. The Arc­tic ad­ven­tures are based on the real-life ex­cur­sions of Ada Black­jack and Robert Bartlett, while Sully the col­lege pro­fes­sor’s midlife cri­sis is a fic­tional tale.

Healy can ex­press a mul­ti­tude of emo­tions in one panel, or in a se­ries of pan­els, as when Ada, an Eskimo woman alone and des­per­ate for food, faces a po­lar bear near her tent. She pre­pares to shoot the bear un­til she notices its cub nearby, which sparks her own ma­ter­nal in­stincts for the sick son she left be­hind.

The in­ter­con­nec­tions of the sto­ries are some­times sub­tle, but al­ways strong, and as Sully finds mean­ing in the ac­counts of the Arc­tic ex­pe­di­tions, mut­ter­ing, “They should have known bet­ter!” and “They didn’t think about the con­se­quences,” it’s only nat­u­ral that he should see the sim­i­lar­i­ties to his own sit­u­a­tion.

Healy’s first graphic novel is an im­pres­sive one, and highly rec­om­mended.

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