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Review: ‘Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey’ draws a lively historical adventure

Cover art for 'Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey'
Courtesy of First Second Books

Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey


Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey a new graphic novel from Nick Bertozzi, (released on June 17), puts Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton in the spotlight. Shackleton the man was one of the last great Antarctic explorers, noted for leading some of the most ambitious expeditions ever undertaken on Earth’s southernmost continent. Bertozzi’s tale is an imagining of one of such adventure in particular––the rather grandly named Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition which spanned from 1914-1917.

Shackleton and his party set out upon the Endurance with the aim to travel to Antarctica and voyage across it before making their glorious return. Ambitious and impressive as that undertaking is on paper, it is all the more a tale that begs for an epic retelling given the knowledge that despite a number of pitfalls and some very desperate circumstances not a single man died on the expedition, though all of them surely must have thought they would at one point or another.

Bertozzi fills his pages not only with this adventure, but also with the little details that make Shackleton and his men tangible to the reader. His pages, like the continent Shackleton and company are exploring are largely white (with muted colors taking on the detail work), a smart choice that allows all of the color to come from the characters. Bertozzi, who received much praise for Lewis & Clark, an earlier work in this same vein, proves himself a master of taking his readers along for the ride, even as he imparts as much information as a textbook, and then some considering that we get a real sense of the personality of these men from the pages.

Fans of adventure and history buffs alike are sure to enjoy this visual rendering of an incredible survival tale. Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey is a breezy, interesting read that wisely uses style and art to highlight the stories of these real men who lived in a romantic age of discovery and exploration that now feels distant to us, except for when we lose ourselves in art that captures it.