The GeeksverseWhite Out: Blast From The Past #2

White Out: Blast From The Past #2
Published on Friday, April 6, 2012 by

We go all the way back to 1998 to look at the first comic book work from Greg Rucka.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a ‘Blast From The Past’ review. I’ve been meaning to get back into them, but just kept finding other things to do first. I had a long list of books to look back on, and a couple of Greg Rucka series was on that list, but White Out was not. Until I found my trades for White Out and White Out: Melt.

The series premiered in 1998 from Oni Press. Greg Rucka was a novelist, three Atticus Kodiak novels to his name, when the mini-series launched. Steve Leiber was the artist. Rucka was new to comics. He’s since gone on to do alot of work from creator owned to work-for-hire for both Marvel and DC. He’s written Batman, Wolverine, Checkmate and is now currently writing The Punisher for Marvel Comics, as well as Lady Sabre And The Pirates Of The Ineffable Aether, a webcomic with art by Rick Burchett.

Frank Miller's cover to the trade paperback

White Out is the story of U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko, who is stationed in Antarctica and has to solve a murder before the winter sets in and half the personal on the various stations are sent home. This series is where Rucka would start to carve his niche, and I don’t mean in the genre of comics, but in being one of the best writers of women in the industry.

From the beginning the setting is as important to the mystery as the characters. Rucka made great use of Antarctica and it’s peculiarities in the story. The setting is part of the story. Stetko is an interesting character, flawed but strong, a solid female character that can hold her own.

White Out also introduced Lily Sharpe, and the mystery is told from the point of view of both women. Sharpe is not just a good character but a very interesting story in and of herself. Sharpe ends up being a false name and she is really Tara Chace, the star of Rucka’s long running spy series Queen & Country. Q&C ran for around 30+ issues, 2 or 3 spin-off mini-series and has been in 2 or 3 of Rucka’s novels (with the latest coming in October).

Well Tara/Lily went on to have a long “career”, Carrie only appeared in the sequel Melt.

Clues are laid to the murderers very early in the story, if you pay attention to the art (which we’ll get to in a minute). The story ends up being about the chase, about how Carrie and Lily work to solve the murder, then in the murderers themselves. It’s fairly different and works very well. The women are surrounded by fully developed characters.

One of the movie posters.

Leiber’s art was perfect. He employed various techniques to give the series a unique look. You could feel the cold coming from his art. The shadowed effect he used for scenes in the dark was very nice.

White Out was pretty well received when it came out. It even became a movie starring Kate Beckinsale. The movie didn’t do well, and I have yet to see it myself, but that has no bearing on the original material. It’s definately a book everyone should check out.

Melt, the sequel, was not so much a mystery as an adventure story. Carrie, and a Russian “ally”, have to track some stolen Russian merchandise across the ice. More so then the first series, this one really played up the danger of the ice. We literally see the environment doing taken out the Russian criminals. That they are former Spetnaz helps show how dangerous the ice is. We also get to see how it can be survived, with Carrie using her knowledge to save her and Aleks.

Melt is as strong as the first, and in some ways even better as Carrie is more developed. Leiber experimented with his art, using different styles to really show the different aspects of the Antarctic environment.

Both books should definately be checked out, they are well worth reading. It’s been awhile since Oni has released versions of them, and I hope a new set is coming soon as more people need to check out this excellent series.

Fans of White Out should definately check out what Steve Leiber has to say below.

I reached out to Steve Leiber, the artist, with a couple of quick questions about the series:

What are you most proud of about White Out and White Out: Melt?

Getting the feel of Antarctica on paper. Trying to get the cold, the wind, and the cramped rooms, and the sculptural quality of the ice and snow, and the sense of isolation was a constant challenge, but I think we pulled it off.

Would you be interested in doing a third story about Carrie Stetko?

Oh yeah. Greg’s written and I’ve drawn the first 33 pages of it. Greg’s run up against some delays, but when he’s got room in his schedule to finish the script, I’ll draw it.

That’s good news as this series would do very well in today’s market I think. It’s got a bit of everything and Rucka is one of the better writers when it comes to female characters (even better then some female writers).

The first issue of White Out is available on Leiber’s blog.

3 Responses
    • Loved the Whiteout books, although I vastly preferred the first mini-series to “Melt”. It seemed like Rucka tried to make Stetko a more conventional heroine in the second series, replacing the subtle romantic tension between Stetko and Lily Sharpe with the more obvious pairing with the male Russian agent.

      Leiber’s art was real good, too, it had a real classic Warren Publishing vibe to it. My only prior exposure to his work before Whiteout was an unmemorable fill-in job on G.I.Joe from 1993 or thereabouts  (during the title’s march towards cancellation).  

    • Argh. Looks like Disqus ate my original comment.

      Anyway, I preferred the first series over the second one myself… “Melt” felt like Rucka backed off of some of the aspects that made Stetko stand out in the first mini-series: the subtle romantic tension between her and Lily in the first Whiteout title was replaced by the you-could-see-it-from-a-mile-away dalliance with the male Russian agent, and overall, it just seemed like “Melt” had Stetko playing the “typical” female action hero role more (you know how it is, the heroine always reverts to the “damsel in distress” stereotype who needs rescuing by a strong man whenever it’s convenient for the plot). “Melt” is still a solid, well-rounded effort to me, though, it’s just not as well-considered as its predecessor. 

      • Was always interesting to me how Carrie Stetko had a short “career” and it was Lily Sharpe that went on to bigger and better things with Queen & Country.

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