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Between the Panels: Tempering the Weather
By Lance Victor Eaton (September 2008)

As the old saying goes, if you don't like the weather, wait a minute; it's sure to change. Yet, for all its inconsistency, weather is a daily representation of climate, which has a generally consistent pattern. This relationship between the consistent and erratic is a perfect analogy for many stories and doubly relevant for the graphic novels discussed here, since weather and climate play such a dominant role in these tales.

Midnight SunBen Towle's Midnight Sun takes place predominantly in the Arctic in the late 1920s. H.R. is an ace reporter with a penchant for alcohol despite Prohibition. When his new boss ships him off on a Russian boat to find a missing blimp in the Arctic ocean, he's not entirely sure if it's his last hurrah or his big break-through. As the boat seeks out survivors, H.R. battles his own inner demons while making friends with the Russians. Meanwhile the survivors make life or death decisions without knowing if they will be saved; all the while fighting the freezing weather. Towle's story is enhanced by his art. Initially, the simplistic grayscale drawings deceive the reader, because as the story progresses, Towle creates a pace and solemnity within these panels that reinforces the isolation and disquieting environment the characters find themselves in.

By contrast, Frozen Wasteland (by Kieran Murphy and J. Augusto Cano) is more an action-packed narrative in a world plunged into ice age. The United States has been covered in ice and has collapsed into chaos. The government is trying to re-establish order, but anarchy rules everywhere. Ricky Di Santos is one of a team of government operatives, sent on special missions to establish control or run interference with local warlords. While enjoyable, the art isn't exceptional. The contrast of the CGI-like front cover with the internal art doesn't match. Additionally, the art and lighting are too heavily dependent on black, which may be an attempt to reinforce the dark mood of the book, but ultimately wears on the eyes.

Slow StormYet for Danica Novgorodoff's Slow Storm, weather serves as the catalyst for two strangers to take control of their lives. In a rural Kentucky county, Ursa fights fires and attempts to live a normal life despite her obnoxious brother and a cultural mentality that continually reminds her how insufficient she is. Rafi is an illegal immigrant slaving away on a farm, wondering if leaving his family was the right thing to do. But a thunderstorm and tornado bring these two unlikely characters together for a brief time; just long enough for each to affect one another in profound ways. Novgorodoff uses watercolor and dream sequences which develop the ethereal aspect of the narrative that flushes out the deeper aspects of each character.

Each of these tales uses weather to reinforce its own narrative, yet in decidedly different and successful ways. While a dark and stormy night remains the preeminent cliché, these artists use weather to do more than just set the scene - in some cases weather becomes a presence in the story on par with other characters.
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