“I am anxious about the rumor regarding the disappearance of the previous commissioner and reports of unrest in the local community..”
Harrison Fleet from fictional graphic novel “British Ice” isn’t your typical old-school British diplomat. He lacks pretension, possesses idealistic values, and genuinely seems to care for those oppressed by his masters. The novel follows Fleet’s tumultuous journey as the new commissioner posted to a remote Arctic island, where he is greeted with a welcome colder than snowfall.
The natives of the island make no bones about their hostility toward the officer, his predecessor was ‘missing,’ and the vast, desolate expanse of snow surrounding his official residence only compounds his challenges. Fleet starts investigating why the locals harbor such animosity towards him and why this remote island holds such significance for the British. Fleet’s discoveries lead to the revelation of horrific secrets, including a blood-soaked colonial history marked by unchecked greed and unforgivable exploitation.
Written and crafted by Owen D. Pomery, the stark and simple illustrations instantly making readers feel the chilly, bleak atmosphere of the Arctic islands right from page one. While the graphic novel isn’t vibrant with colors, it also doesn’t adhere to a strict black-and-white palette either. Instead, the illustrations are awash in delicate shades of pale blue and white, mirroring the coldness of both the story’s settings and the treatment Harrison Fleet encounters on the island. A lot of pages didn’t have any dialogues at all, but helped in moving the plot along nonetheless. For example, one whole page had just the illustration of Harrison Fleet’s residence, built like a London town house, standing alone against large snowy mountains, with nothing else in sight. It establishes the protagonist’s isolation and how he is alone in his quest to uncover the buried secrets of the island.
Since the novel is only 128 pages long, Owen D. Pomery isn’t able to fully delve into the themes he aims to explore in this chilling narrative of ‘colonial oppressors versus natives’. Harrison Fleet makes efforts to get friendly with the locals, but is only met with dirty looks and disdain. In fact, it’s almost ironic that the white man turns out to be both the hero and the villain in the tale, while the natives of the remote island are mere bitter side characters, most of whom are never even properly introduced. Fleet’s most friendly ally in the tale is a local woman called Abel, however it’s later clarified that Abel isn’t even her real name, but “just the closest guess in English”. Foreigners not having the basic courtesy to learn a local’s native name and giving them an easy to pronounce nickname? Very British indeed.
British Ice” concludes with an intriguing and morbid twist. However, the climax appears to be rather convenient and rushed. It only takes a few days and some dumb lock for a new Foreign officer to come and uncover decades worth of dark secrets of a remote region. Regardless, the graphic novel makes for an interesting read, mostly due to the simple illustrations.
The graphic novel is also available on Kindle Unlimited.
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