The Annotated Northwest Passage

While I was in San Diego I managed to pick up some interesting books. The advantage to buying books at a convention is that many times you can buy them directly from the creator. This is nice because typically they are genuinely excited to talk to you about it – which can ultimately make the book more interesting.

The downfall to buying at a convention is that you then have to carry the books around all day. Not necessarily a problem at the beginning of the day, but eventually it catches up… especially when some of the books are hardcover. But I guess I’d rather have good books that are heavy than no books at all.

One book that I found particularly interesting is The Annotated Northwest Passage by Scott Chantler, published by Oni Press. It was pretty much guaranteed that I would like this book. Historical adventure. Check. Pictures. Check. Handy size for reading on a plane. Check. Seriously though – this is one that may not have made its way to my LCS and I wouldn’t have known to scour for it.

The book opens with the character Eagle Eye of the Cree being chased through the woods. It’s an exciting way to start a book – and in fact it had me hooked right away. What makes it even better is that the story is – as the title states – annotated. So by flipping to the back of the book I can read Scott’s notes/ideas. The first thing that struck me is that I know VERY LITTLE about Canadian History. Being an American that’s probably pretty standard. But then Scott comments on the apparent similarities his opening scene has to the opening sequence of The Last of the Mohicans or perhaps it’s The Fellowship of the Ring… or both? It’s nice to hear him talking about possible influences, no matter how accidental or incidental.

But I’m not here to summarize the book for you – I’m here to tell you why I think it’s great and worth a read.

Even though I was immediately interested in the chase scene that opened the book as I read on I was worried that the art was too juvenile for me. Oddly that feeling changed as I continued to read. As a matter of fact I even started to like it. I started to remind me of Batman: The Animated Series. That mental comparison coupled with Josh’s resolution to appreciate the artist made me enjoy the art that much more.

So why is this story so good? Well – I already mentioned that it’s historical adventure. It takes place relatively early (1755) in the birth of North America as we know it today – before the big move westward (1803 = Louisiana Purchase = the “official” start of the move west). The underlying theme is opening up more and potentially better trade routes throughout Canada by discovering the “rumored” Northwest Passage.  But that doesn’t do it much justice. There is a lot more going on in this book. There are fights with the French, familial issues and your standard betrayals, friendships – the list can go on and on.

Our main character, Charles, is an explorer turned Governor of an outpost in Rupert’s Land. He is on his way to retirement when things go awry. What has been a relatively quiet trading outpost on the Hudson Bay is now under siege by the French. Charles has a half-blood son, Simon, who is one of the prisoners.  However, Simon and Charles’ relationship is not great despite the capture of the base.  They have been estranged since the passing of Simon’s mother. Monsieur Montglave, Charles’ sworn enemy, is not helping the family dynamic.

This book is loads of fun with a cast of very interesting characters. Like most good books – when I finished it (too quickly) I was bummed that there was not more. Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, this one is annotated. So even though the story was done, there was more information to be found.

At first glance the annotations might seem to be a little too much and perhaps self-indulgent. Maybe I’m just saying that because I’ve never read a book that is so heavily annotated. However, if you take the time to read them all you get some very interesting insights into the creation of this book – and some interesting history as well.

Pick this one up. Read it. Make sure you read it all – don’t stop when the pictures do… it’s worth it. And if you are still questioning — head over to Oni Press and they have 31 pages available to read online… but, you don’t have to take my word for it… for it – so I am excited that I was able to get in at the con.



  1. Sold! Great right up, Gordon


  3. This is one of those books that friends have tried forever to get me to buy.  I always mean to purchase it, but I keep forgetting.  This ends now.  Time to hit Amazon.  🙂


    the Tiki 

  4. Didn’t Josh talk about this on the video show once? Its a great book.

  5. You may remember the classic Episode #43:  Dancing. 

    I practice what I preach, and shoved this book into Gordon’s ungrateful hands.

  6. This book was devoured as I lay sick in bed sometime in February.

    Best. Sick. Day. Ever. 

  7. This is an amazing piece of work, and it’s definitely one of my favorites in my collection.

  8. Josh did suggest it to me…although I wouldn’t say I had ungrateful hands…

    ps – there’s a video show?

  9. I’ve been trying to get the book store I work at to get it for months! Northwest Passage, and Mohawk Country are two history books I just need to have.

    This is clearly the best example to prove to parents that not all comics are violent, beat-em ups.

  10. Great recommendation, Gordon.  From the preview it looks like this book might actually be a good fit in my middle school English classroom.  I’m always looking for that sort of stuff.


  11. @BigE – I think it would be a great supplement.  I’m actually passing it on to our Canadian History Professor this week!