White Death ended up being a difficult book for me to review: I was lost about 25% through and never regained the story at the end. So I reread and still have no idea what the story was other than it was soldiers, death, some prostitutes, lots of snow. And that’s hard, especially after reading the forewards and how proud the writer/illustrator were of this piece and what it meant to them. It should have all worked so serendipitously: passionate creators, a little-told or known WW1 angle, a true-life story inspiration. But I was left mystified at what I was reading.
Story: A WW1 tale of the Italian Alps and the use of avalanches to defeat enemy troups.
The illustrations were beautiful on their own but somehow failed to coalesce into a story when put together. I had a hard time distinguishing one person from another, enemy vs. protagonist. People were killed and I wasn’t sure if they were one of my main characters or not. It ended up being very frustrating when I had no context for the actions taking place. Granted, black and white will also be problematic for differentiation – especially with soldiers who all wear similar uniforms. But that also makes the choice of medium here somewhat questionable.
The other issue that stuck with me is the whole mysticism about avalanches. I suppose if you life in England, avalanches are mysterious and awesome. But for those who live with the condition as part of daily life, it’s hardly a religious experience. E.g., I grew up through 5 major earthquakes in Los Angeles – I deal with knowing one will come, people will die, and devastation will occur. But I don’t worship them, either.
That said, there are some great moments in the book (if lacking context for me) and I enjoyed the illustration style very much. I saw another reviewer note a twist at the end (which I missed completely, having got lost so easily), which added to my frustration. I appreciate a story of WW1 told from such an undocumented angle (and the little details such as chlorine gas attacks); so was my disappointment by not being able to get into White Death.
Although I am rating this a 3 star, I do feel there is a 5 star book in there for those who can follow the work or are willing to put in multiple viewings. I enjoy history and graphic novels enough that I will likely give this further reads in the future and see if I can make some sense of it.
Reviewed from an ARC.