Review: Shackleton – Antarctic Odyssey

Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey is a crazy story. Writer/Artist Nick Bertozzi of course based his work on the true story of Ernest Shackleton and his Antarctic journey. It’s a condensed version of the story, but it’s filled with facts. Again, it’s crazy. Now there are several reason it’s crazy, but for me the biggest one is the fact that this story will never happen again. There are no explorers in the world, only tourists as we’ve conquered the world to put it plainly. Technology has advanced so that things like being stranded in Antarctic for years at a time can never happen again. At least not be accident or necessity. The story opens with Ernest Shackleton’s first attempt to cross Antarctica. If you ask why then you clearly weren’t paying attention when I mentioned exploration in the previous paragraph. He gets a pretty far in, but he’s taken ill and his men are worried about him so they turn back. He’s devastated, but alive. Time passes. A lot of time passes and he gets the itch to go again. He gets funding for another trip and puts a crew together and heads out to Antarctica from England.

Nothing about this expedition seems to go right. Once they’re past the point of no return they discover a stowaway. Rather than chuck him over board they make him apart of the crew because they need to keep pressing forward. They get their last supplies and begin towards Antarctica even after being told to wait a year because the cold was too much. Eventually the ship gets stuck in the ice before they can reach land. This means they spend an entire winter on the ship stuck where it is.

Of course the next thing that can go wrong is that the ice begins to put pressure on the boat which it does. This eventually forces the men off of the boat and onto a camp still on the ice and far from land. They wait for the boat to sink before they begin moving on. Now they’re in the arctic with only lifeboats and in the freezing elements and yet not a single man has died. Amazing. Can their luck hold up? You’ll have to see.

shackletonBertozzi has a wonderful pacing for this story once he gets started. The beginning is very informative so there isn’t a lot of actual story or character development. In fact there aren’t really that many standout characters. Shackleton is the main character and really the only one we need to follow. There’s a couple strong supporting characters, but the story is driven by Shakleton’s decisions as they would be in real life.

The artwork is in all black & white and grey scale. It works for the story and honestly I don’t know if Bertozzi’s style would work with coloring. I think he’d have to adjust his style too much and that would ruin the magic that he creates here. He does a great job of bringing out the emotion of the story and characters. Believe it or not almost all of the men stay very positive and joyful throughout the story. I can’t imagine being happy all the time after being trapped in the arctic for years and no boat to take me home. These dudes were bold and really inspiring.

By Bertozzi’s own admission he doesn’t cover the entire story of the Shackleton Expedition because then the story would be massive. And really I only mention that for those that might expect 100% historical accuracy. He does however tell a complete and rewarding version of the story that is heavy on the facts and very entertaining.

Score: 5/5

Writer/Artist/Creator: Nick Bertozzi Publisher: First Second Books Price: $16.99 Release Date: 7/2/14 Format: OGN, Print