Writer(s): Ben Towle
Artist(s): Ben Towle
Publisher: Slave Labor Graphics
Page count: 144
Year Released: 2007
Status: in print
Original Source: Midnight Sun 1-3
Other Collected Edition(s): n/a
Genres: adventure; historical fiction; suspense/thriller
Recommended for Fans Of: early twentieth-century history
Possibly Objectionable Material: coarse language
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Also in This Series: n/a
Midnight Sun is based on a true story. In 1928 the Italian airship Italia crashed during an expedition to the North Pole, stranding nine of its crew deep inside the Arctic Circle, while the remaining ten crew members are presumed to have died during or shortly after the crash.
As the weary survivors collect their wits and debate whether to stay put in the hopes of being rescued or to set out across the shifting ice in search of help, H.R., an alcoholic newspaper reporter from the States, boards a Russian icebreaker that has been dispatched to seek out any survivors of the crash. Onboard, H.R. meets Zowie, a fellow reporter from Russia who seems to have a strong emotional stake in finding the Italia's crew members alive.
My Own 2 Cents
Midnight Sun has a lot going for it. Towle has illuminated a fascinating, little-known story from the early twentieth century, and does a fine job of imagining what the days and weeks after the crash must have been like for the survivors (many of the historical facts surrounding the event are controversial and contested).
However, I wish the book had been much longer. Though 144 pages may sound like a lot, it went by very quickly, and I finished the book feeling like Towle had skimmed along the surface of his story without really delving into the aspects that would have made for an unforgettable graphic novel. As Towle mentions in his afterword, "A complete, factual dramatization of the bizarre and fascinating events surrounding [Umberto] Nobile's second expedition to the Pole would extend well beyond the scope of a hundred-and-change page graphic novel."
One aspect of the story that Towle had to "ignor[e includes] the political elements of the tale--how Nobile and his pursuits conflicted with the emerging fascist government in Italy before and after the expedition." In fact, Il Duce makes only one appearance in the story--in the form of a photograph that the Italia's helmsman defiantly tacks to the pole inside Nobile's tent when they are stranded on the ice. Perhaps I'm alone in this, but I think Nobile's conflicts with Mussolini would have added a key element to the story by providing us with some understanding of Nobile's character. But in Midnight Sun Nobile is just another character among the survivors.
Similarly, H.R. (the newspaperman) and Biagi (the airship's radio operator), ostensibly the book's protagonists for its two narrative tracks, are not much more than character sketches. In the end, Midnight Sun is primarily a rescue story (i.e., event-driven), not a story of survival (i.e., character-driven). Though I would have preferred the latter, Towle's book is nonetheless an achievement, and I'm glad to have read it.
Writer(s): Ben Towle