*Midnight Sun — Recommended

Midnight Sun is a tale of survival based on a true story, where the crew of an Italian airship become stranded after it crashes on its way to the North Pole in 1928. It’s told from the perspective of HR, an American reporter who spends his afternoons getting drunk. He’s given a last-chance choice: travel with the rescue party up north, or lose his job. His boss also tells him to dry out on the trip. Plus, he’s the only non-Russian on the expedition. (They were the only ones close enough to send a rescue vessel in time.)

Midnight Sun cover
Midnight Sun
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Thankfully, there’s another reporter, a Russian named Zowie whose fiancé was part of the airship crew. The two spark, in part due to competing over the only radio they can use to report back to their editors.

Towle’s confident storytelling allows the visuals to tell the story as needed, without extraneous captions or narration. His figure-centered compositions capture the various kind of loneliness felt by the characters, whether HR’s solo journey or the crew’s struggle to survive. Some of them have tough choices to make, whether to stay put and hope for rescue or strike out across the ice in a direction that’s at best a guess.

Towle’s simple linework against detailed, time-proper backgrounds create the air of stepping back to another era. His approach, especially the use of sepia-like grey tones, reinforces the “historical” part of historical fiction. The story intercuts between the two voyages, HR’s and the crew’s, to create a mystery where anything can happen — at least from the reader’s perspective, who’s likely unfamiliar with the original case. A much-appreciated author’s note at the end discusses some of the events elided for storytelling purposes.

Views of desolate icy wastelands seem particularly suited to comics. When done right, the medium perfectly captures the silent cold… and this one is done right. Black, white, and grey tones show the speckled sky of falling snow over the shadows and crevasses of the endlessly stretching icepack and its drifts. It reinforces just how much the airship crew and their rescuers are intruders into this exotic landscape.

Plus, the package is well-chosen. It’s a squarer book than typical, making for a compact volume that feels great in the hand and suits the rectangular panels and straightforward presentation. No fancy layouts here, just good storytelling.

It’s a gripping invite to think about tough choices and the human drive to survive in the harshest of conditions. There’s also the more realistic take on how often those who do heroic things do so in spite of being jerks.

Ben Towle has a website. Find out more about the book in this short interview or longer retrospective. The publisher has released an online trailer with a chapter preview. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)


10 Responses to “*Midnight Sun — Recommended”

  1. Heroes Con 2006 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] only bought two things at the show, Peach Girl Book 7 and Ben Towle’s Midnight Sun. Oh, and driving back, we bought a bunch of Cheerwine for a local friend who loves the cherry soda. [...]

  2. Thought-Provoking LinkBlogging » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Towle announces that his Midnight Sun miniseries will end serialized publication with issue #3 in favor of an upcoming book collection, [...]

  3. Ben Towle: Cartoonist, Educator, Hobo » Midnight Sun on ComicsWorthReading Says:

    [...] Draper Carlson has posted a great review of Midnight Sun over at ComicsWorthReading.com, Midnight Sun – Recommended.  Among other things, she mentions the book’s trim size: Plus, the package is well-chosen. [...]

  4. Blog@Newsarama » Hip to be square Says:

    [...] to be square Friday January 18, 2008, 12:54 pm Responding to a review by Johanna Draper Carlson, Ben Towle explains why the recent Midnight Sun collection from SLG is a different shape and size [...]

  5. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Jan. 21, 2008: Do the floppy flop Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson on Ben Towle’s Midnight Sun. (Above: page from the book in question, ©2007 Ben [...]

  6. Collected Comics Library Podcast and Blog; News and Reviews on all sorts of Comic Book Collected Editions; Don't be fooled by imitators! Says:

    [...] Review: Johanna Draper Carlson, Comics Worth Reading on Midnight Sun [...]

  7. Heroes Con 2008 Report » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] brought my Midnight Sun by Ben Towle’s table, where we had a great conversation about reviewing and expectations. [...]

  8. R. Crumb w/ Françoise Mouly in Richmond, VA, October 27, 2009 Part 1: France, Women » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Worth Reading is happy to feature a two-part guest column by the talented Ben Towle, author of Midnight Sun and Farewell, Georgia. Part two will run shortly, as will additional coverage of this event by Ed [...]

  9. R. Crumb w/ Françoise Mouly in Richmond, VA, October 27, 2009 Part 2: Music, Genesis, Open Questions » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] primarily for his work with SLG Publishing, including the recent historical fiction graphic novel Midnight Sun as well as his earlier volume of comics folk tales, Farewell, Georgia. He’s recently [...]

  10. Read Great Comics Online Free — Three New Entries » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] posted as he completes them, so don’t look for a regular schedule yet, but his previous book, Midnight Sun, amply demonstrates that he’s a wizard with historical stories, so I’m eager to see [...]




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