White Death by Robbie Morrison & Charlie Adlard – spoiler light

White DeathWhite Death
Published by Image

September 2014
Hardback 104 Pages
Black & White on grey

Writer: Robbie Morrison
Artist: Charlie Adlard

Fictional account based on historic events

Robbie Morrison is best known to me from his work in the pages of 2000AD including Judge Dredd and the rather brilliant Nikolai Dante. Charlie Aslard also first came to my attention in 2000AD with work including Judge Dredd, Savage and a stint on Nikolai Dante with Robbie Morrison. You may know Charlie Adlard from something called The Walking Dead.

This story is based on historic events but is a fictional narrative. Intros from both creators explain how the book came about. Charlie had the embryo of an idea before he started The Walking Dead. Robbie developed the story after hearing about the funeral in 2013 of two Austrian soldiers who died in the White War of 1915 to 1918.

The White War took part in the mountainous borders between Italy, part of the Allied Powers with Britain, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, allies of Germany. The conflict became known as the White War as both sides deliberately caused avalanches to kill.

It was the striking cover of the book that first caught my eye – then the names of the creators. My copy came with a free signed print of the image on the back cover.

White Death bcThe images in this book are created with charcoal and chalk on grey paper. I’m not a collector of such things so it wasn’t the selling point but the image is striking. I used chalks and charcoal in my Art O’Level so I’m familiar with the ideas.

The dramatic opening scene of someone walking through a blizzard was created by Charlie Adlard while Robbie Morrison was still completing the script. So it is clear that it was very much a collaborative process that brought this book to us.

Comics are a wonderful medium for telling the tales of the people affected by war. The intimacy of a comic page can bring the emotion of the characters in the story to life, they act out the story. Knowing the conflict was real adds to the drama. For me it was also important that the cast was Italian and Austro-Hungarian and bot British or Americans fighting Germans. So often people forget the ‘World’ aspect of the World Wars. I recently reviewed To End All Wars and that graphic novel also highlighted countries other than those that the US and British film industry always focus upon.

This is an honest tale, the characters are rounded with personalities that we can identify with. The central character is an Italian solder named Pietro Aquasanta.There is something different about this new recruit that joins his unit with a column of reinforcements. This sets him aside from the others and gains him the instant animosity of his commanding officer, Acting Lieutenant Orsini.

We don’t see much of the Austro-Hungarians up close apart from in close quarter fighting. What we do see shows them to be men much the same as their Italian enemies. In a war that saw so much death on both sides it is important to remember that the individuals at the front were no different one from the other and in other circumstances could have been friends.

Pietro is the focal point but in many ways the White War is as much a character as the topic. The environment is brought to life so well with the artistic style Charlie Adlard brought to this book with his chalks and charcoal. Those images and the power of Robbie Morrison’s script bring this part of history to life, though the participants are long dead.

(edit 1st November 2014 – BBC Scotland article on White Death)

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