The first book of the Nordguard trilogy (by Tess Garman and Teagan Gavet) is a rare treat - a compelling story brought wonderfully to life by some intriguing characters and frankly stunning artwork. This is not - in any sense - a run-of-the-mill graphic novel.
The story, set in 1903, revolves around a discovery at Tartok Mine, deep within the Northern Territory, that has attracted unwelcome military attention and soon brings conflict and death. A call for help reaches the town of Frontier, and a crack Nordguard team is sent on a rescue mission with almost no information as to the nature of the 'disaster', and made no happier by having a pugnacious and arrogant military officer along for the ride. Their journey towards Tartok is difficult as they traverse a challenging wilderness, facing conflict within their team and attack from without.
The story is well-paced and doesn't let up; the opening pages are gripping even before we get to Frontier and our first encounter with the Nordguard team. The unusually-named lead dog, Pi, assembles her team and then we are off into the wilds...
Graphically, Nordguard is a masterwork. Page after page of meticulous, detailed watercolour work brings the characters, locations and the sweeping landscapes to luminous life. The quality, care and detail compares well to the work of Juanjo Guarnido ('Blacksad'), which is a strong recommendation indeed to anyone familiar with his work.
Nordguard: Across Thin Ice is a masterful piece of work and worthy of anyone's collection. The remainder of the series cannot follow soon enough. Highly recommended.