Northwest Passage
by Scott Chantler
(Oni, 2005)

The time is 1755. The place is called Rupert's Land. And it's home to a great British hero. However, after years of the challenging life of a two-fisted, bold-as-you-please explorer, Charles Lord has now settled into a comfortable life as governor of a frontier trading post. Set to retire, Lord discovers that his past is not so easily forgotten, when a long-time friend whom he hasn't seen in years shows up barely alive, and with a grave warning.

And, thus begins writer/artist Scott Chantler's highly entertaining, and fair to say, experimental, comics project. Why do I say experimental? "Why, it's not at all what the general comics-reading base is accustomed to! It's not superheroes! It's digest-sized! It's (gasp!) black and white!!" All true. And thank the good Lord above. Don't get me wrong; if I'm making fun, I'm making fun of myself, as much as anyone. I mean, I like superhero comics. But I also like a change every once in a while.

Northwest Passage, with it's better-than-average characterization, great story pacing and magnificent art work, is just the change I'm looking for.

One of the most captivating aspects of NorthWest Passage is Chantler's highly expressive animation-derived pencils. His style resembles that of the late Mike Parobeck, an artist probably most well known for his work on D.C. Comics' The Batman Adventures. Chantler would seem to be heavily influenced by Parobeck's style. Nothing wrong with that, as far as I, and I'm sure, many other fans, are concerned. His characters, though more simply rendered than in some styles of realism, are individually evocative. No cookie-cutter patterns, here.

All in all, Northwest Passage is well worth the ticket price. Speaking of ticket prices, it's recommended for those who wouldn't watch just one specific type of movie, but enjoy many different cinematic genres. Why, that would be just about everyone, wouldn't it?

by Mark Allen
6 January 2006

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