It’s hard to know what to expect from The Arctic Marauder. It opens in the late nineteenth century. Tardi gradually establishes the protagonist–one Jérôme Plumier–who is conveniently on a ship traveling through the Arctic Ocean. The ship discovers a startling shipwreck (on an iceberg) and Plumier is part of the investigating boarding party.
Now, it did not occur to me Plumier’s presence was contrived until now, sitting after reading Marauder and trying to explain it. Tardi is wholly convincing in ignoring the contrivance of it. Plumier was the only passenger who the story might involve, making his survival essential for there to be a story at all.
But, like I said, Tardi sells it.
Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention because the artwork is so amazing. Marauder is very, very dark. But then there are these icebergs or there’s nineteenth century France and Tardi works in all this detail. The people are not the point in Marauder–at one point, Tardi doesn’t even bother giving the supporting cast faces–but the landscapes and technology.
The layout is also important. Tardi’s panel composition and his placement of the panels on the page are amazing. In some ways, it’s my favorite art from him and in others not. He sacrifices personality and emotion for a great look.
Yet he still manages to tell an excellent story. Once the mystery perturbs far enough, he switches gears, turning it into a great riff on 20,000 Leagues.
Marauder is excellent, but not profound.