Writer: Brian Wickman
Art: Vlad Legostaev
Lettering: Rachel Deering
WHAT IS IT?
This comic is a piece of snow covered, post-apocalyptic speculative fiction set in and near an unspecified city.
Imagine the urban wastelands and ominous vibes of I Am Legend, Book of Eli, or The Road except with kinder humans and a non-zombie threat. And snow. Lots of snow.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Life in the frozen white world is cold and bleak, but not without warmth. Cal, for instance, has, by all appearances, a happy home life with his partner and daughter despite spending most of their time holed up indoors.
It's not clear what's going on in the world outside. There is a snow ghost, or maybe not. Maybe the snow makes the air breathable, or maybe the air is poison. Society has crumbled, but not entirely. There may or may not be more than a handful of survivors.
What is clear, is that Cal gets called upon to venture out into the city, an apparently perilous adventure worthy of a family sendoff. The circumstances are ominous at best, and if you're expecting Cal to run into trouble, you won't be disappointed.
Wickman and Legostaev cook up an ominous and peripherally unsettling mood through a combination of visual and written clues. It puts the reader in the characters' shoes, and engenders a sense of urgent curiosity. For instance, check out the daughter's bedroom in the page below: no windows, industrial lights, artwork tacked to concrete walls, and some toys. A bedroom in a bunker says all is not well without revealing much.
Legostaev's gritty artwork also suggests a lot about life in this world. Specifically, I got the impression that it is in fact a harsh, hard-won existence that nevertheless affords happiness, albeit with much less of a buffer between oneself and reality than we're used to in our lives.
Cal's family is special, and in just a few brief pages, it's easy to get attached to them and root for them. It heightens the tension and raises the stakes for Cal's trip into the city.
I'm so used to reading comics that use elliptical bubbles that Deering's rectangular ones stood out to me. That's not to say they took me out of the moment though. Instead, they underscored the characters' isolation and emotional stress. Even when they are playing around, there's a hard edge surrounding everything they say, as if they can't truly let go of their worries.
I've read Big White at least ten times, and each reading has revealed something new. It's just such a compact and efficient story that it rewards re-readings. For instance, there is a nice bookend structure to the narrative, where the very last scenes resemble and help illuminate the opening scenes.
Although race doesn't play a discernible role in developing the plot, it's worth mentioning that the main characters are Black, since Black people have been and continue to be underrepresented in these kinds of stories.
No swearing or sexual content makes it appropriate for audiences who are okay with violence. If it were a movie, it'd probably be PG-13.
The digital version is free. For real. You can read it on the author's website.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
It has some violence including a murder (although the murder happens off-page), so it might not be a great fit for younger audiences.
Readers averse to ambiguity should steer clear. Shrouding itself in mystery really works for the piece as a whole, but it will be agonizing for readers who like walking away from a story with more answers than questions.
This is pretty nit-picky, but I didn't find the transition between indoor life and life among the snow to feel as jarring as the characters did. A big palette change or other adjustment to the art could've made the transition feel more disruptive.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Slap on your helmet, bundle up, and step into the snow-pocalypse. These days, there aren't enough people left to populate the city, which might just be haunted anyway. Or maybe there's just something in the air that makes it seem like it's haunted.
This mystery-laden horror mashup makes excellent use of narrative white space and visual storytelling to develop an ominous atmosphere and a plot that begs to be investigated. At once simple and cerebral, BIG WHITE is a great fit for readers who want something to chew on. Affording multiple interpretations and presenting readers with more questions than answers, this would make a great selection for a book club.
It is a standalone one-off, but the story might continue in the future, although nothing is definite at this point.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Brian Wickman’s characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Brian Wickman’s or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED