A Masterpiece Of Comic Experimentation – Polar: Came In From The Cold HC Review

GameStop, Inc.

23963Ripped out of retirement by an assassination attempt, the world’s most deadly spy—Black Kaiser—is on a collision course with a stab-happy torture expert and a seductive but deadly redhead. His mission only ends if he dies or kills everyone out to get him, and he’s not in the habit of dying.

Victor Santos is mostly known for being the artist on the fantastic series Mice Templar in the states. His lines have popped up in a few other places as well, but it was his web comic series Polar that first attracted me to his work. Now, those who know me know I love a good spy story, whether it’s a James Bond big budget guns and explosions spectacular, or the more realistic and down to earth stories of John LeCarre. One of my favorite comic series of the last couple decades was Greg Rucka’s Queen & Country, and I hold a special place in my heart for BBC’s Spooks/MI-5. Well, Polar is joining that list.

Originally a thoroughly engaging, yet wordless, web comic, which can be viewed at http://www.polarcomic.com/, Victor Santos has created an all new script for this elegant hardcover edition. Polar: Came From the Cold book truly is a masterpiece of comic experimentation, gorgeous in its execution. It’s a John LeCarre story by way of Frank Miller, an exciting no-holds-barred espionage thriller that will leave you breathless. And just when you think it’s over, he throws another twist into the mix.

The main character, called The Black Kaiser, is a mysterious man with a hidden past. All we know is that he left the spy game many years ago, and he will do anything he needs to, including bringing the war right to his cryptic would be captor’s doorstep, in order to stay out, and stay alive. The story is an exciting, and quickly paced one, every page blood soaked and bullet riddled. The violence is over the top, and harsh in its execution. It is a thoroughly modern suspense thriller, that should well become an instant classic upon release.

Santos’ style here is fresh and inventive, with a brilliant understanding and use of negative space. Using just black, white, and orange, there is an elegance to his page compositions, and Santos knows how to use panel composition to set the story’s pace, and uses that knowledge to his advantage, and our delight. Many of these pages could stand on their own without the dialog, perfectly suited for framing. His frenetic lines grab you from the first page, and don’t let you go until that final panel. Santos is a master of his craft, and this is easily the best, most honestly personal work of his career so far. I have a feeling he’s just getting warmed up.

Polar: Came From the Cold is a breath of fresh air in this comic landscape of reboots, variant covers, and homogeneous super heroes. A book with true artistic value like this doesn’t come around often, and that is a shame, because I would buy it every time if it did. Polar: Came From the Cold is easily the pick of the week, if not the year. Not since the brilliant Asterios Polyp have I been this wowed by a graphic novel, and that is high praise indeed. I for one can’t wait to see what’s next for The Black Kaiser.

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