How to Survive in the North , a new graphic novel by Nobrow Press and Luke Healy, juxtaposes old and new to create an entirely new kind of comic book. Cleverly intertwining the story of Ada Blackjack’s historic expedition in the early 1900’s with a fictional story about a college professor’s midlife crisis, the book examines what it takes to survive in harsh conditions.
The two plots may not sound like an obvious fit but the way Luke was woven them together makes it seem completely natural. Jumping between the two tenuously-linked tales creates a unique a unique dynamic as the stories of both an epic Arctic adventure and modern day drama are told side-by-side. This unique way of storytelling is not only fresh and exciting but good value too - you get twice as many twists, characters and 2 very different endings.
In terms of design, the book’s biggest challenge is also it’s greatest strength. Depicting both a sunny college campus and snowy expedition with the same cohesive colour palette is no small task but the unorthodox combinations are a complete triumph. The scheme relies mainly on cool turquoises, pale yellows and a whole host of luscious pinks, a palette which allows for plenty of variation in tone, perfectly depicting both the dull interior of a heartbroken professor’s office as well as conjuring up the crisp morning of another day of the traveler’s survival mission.
Having reviewed many Nobrow titles in the last few years and picked up a few other comics along the way, I have a reasonable sized collection of graphic novels but have never read a comic anything like How to Survive in the North before. The stark juxtaposition of old and new, fact and fiction creates and intoxicating contrast and enthralling read. With a clever concept and and outstanding design, the book is fresh and fascinating addition to any bookshelf and must-read for history fans and illustration enthusiasts alike.