Readers of The Lost Art

Whiteout and Whiteout: Melt (vols 1 & 2)

March 6th, 2009

Whiteout vol. 1

Whiteout vol. 1


Whiteout vol. 2: Melt

Whiteout vol. 2: Melt


Author: Greg Rucka

Artist:  Steve Lieber

Reviewer: Jean


[Minor spoilers]


These two neat little volumes collect two linked mini-series, written by Rucka before the success of ‘Queen and Country’, reissued for the benefit of admirers of that later work, and to exploit the connection with a forthcoming movie. It should transfer very well to film, and not only because of the stunning setting – the plot and characterisation are no more than can be fitted comfortably into a feature-length film. Yet perversely, I liked this modest early work better than its much praised successor. 

The two volumes are two separate crime stories featuring US Marshall Carrie Stetko, the first detection-based, the second pure thriller. Contemporary crime fiction – the text variety – is frequently given an exotic setting: the Navajo Reservation, or fourteenth century Devon. ‘Whiteout’ parallels this trend, but Antarctica is more than just a colourful setting. It fascinates both creators, and allows Steve Lieber to experiment with technical solutions to the question, how do you keep it interesting, when every scene is white on white (and you have to render it in monochrome)? Greg Rucka is clearly fascinated by the icy, hostile territory, and indulges in massive info-dumps, delivered in voice-over, heavy symbolism (Carrie is frozen, too) and a quantity of poetic reverie about the lure of the ice. How tolerable you find this probably depends on how far you share his fascination. 

Compared to this, the plotting is somewhat perfunctory, and the two stories are more similar than is strictly advisable. There is a suspicious event, caused by a unscrupulous people who break the strict rules governing this international territory, and since Carrie is on the spot she is called in to investigate, teamed with a foreign agent whom she does not trust (in the first story, a blonde British woman who is Tara Chace in all but name). But the handling of this basic structure is very different. ‘Whiteout’ itself is constructed around complications and false appearances, but its complexities are sometimes hard to follow – and this isn’t helped by the way the authors themselves occasionally seem to lose the thread (so a dead man is identified as someone who has not been listed as a member of the team; not to mention that drilling for mineral samples apparently produces rods of pure gold). 

The sequel, ‘Melt’, is simpler, and not only because it substitutes a chase across the ice for the intellectual deduction of book one. Carrie, frozen since the death of her husband, sent to Antarctica as punishment for killing a criminal in what was evidently seen as over-reaction, has now thawed enough to enjoy a one night stand in an igloo with a Russian she does not trust. But then Carrie is no longer the central character, having been shouldered out of the way by Antarctica herself, who makes the US Marshall redundant by picking off the evil-doers one by one.

It isn’t ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’, and it isn’t ‘Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow’. But if you don’t demand too much of it, it’s a diverting enough read. 



  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Oni Press; illustrated edition edition (1 Jul 2007)
  • Language: English  
  • ISBN-10: 193266470X


Whiteout: Melt

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Oni Press (15 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English  
  • ISBN-10: 1929998031

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