Monday, October 26, 2009

The Annotated Northwest Passage, Volume 1

Nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens in 2008, The Annotated Northwest Passage is a piece of historical fiction set in the Canadian frontier in 1755. The story revolves around Charles Lord, a British explorer, governor, and company man, and his conflict with the ruthless Guerin Montglave. Montglave is a French privateer who will stop at nothing to take control of the territory and trade Lord has established. The two men have a long history of cut-throat competition which is rekindled in a siege of Fort Newcastle, which has been left vulnerable by Lord's retirement and planned return to England. Montglave is clearly the villain in this struggle, as he stops at nothing to keep control of his men, including murder and manipulating Simon, Charles's half Native American son, against his father.

Northwest Passage has a large cast of characters, and a tremendous amount of backstory is woven throughout the narrative. This information is further bolstered by copious annotations which provide insight into Chantler's layouts, artistic choices, and historical research. The annotations also provide some historical contexts for the story. But for all this research, the narrative has emotional punch and a great sense of pulp drama.

The creator of Northwest Passage is Scott Chantler, an acclaimed graphic novelist and popular commercial illustrator who has been for three Shuster Awards, three Harvey Awards, a Doug Wright Award, a Russ Manning Award, and an Eisner Award, but, as he likes to joke on his blog, "has somehow managed to avoid actually winning any of them."

Northwest Passage was originally published as three separate issues by Oni Press. A well celebrated book, Northwest Passage has received glowing reviews such as this one from Johanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth Reading, this one from Don MacPherson at Eye on Comics, and this one from Warren Peace.

Although it is considered an all ages book, The Annotated Northwest Passage has lots to offer older and younger readers alike.

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