White by Dan Schaffer

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My experience with non-superhero comics is somewhat limited.  While I’ve read hundreds of DC trades, I’ve read far fewer independent/non-superhero comics. I’m slowly working on correcting that, branching out into more original works and reading creator-owned stories. White collects the series in its entirety, presenting the full story of 18-year old Willa, the sole survivor of a plane crash. Willa is stranded on a floating piece of debris in shark-infested waters.  She has a satellite phone with her, which leads the reader to believe her story will be brief, as she’ll likely only have to wait a short time until a rescue boat arrives.

The concept is simple, yet White is very well executed. I won’t give away too many details, as the story works best if you go in not knowing what to expect.  Suffice it to say that Willa must contend not only with the sharks swimming beneath her, but the metaphorical sharks on land as well.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this one prior to reading.  There have been plenty of similarly-themed films in the past, (Jaws and Open Water come to mind) and I wasn’t sure if White would be able to bring anything new to the genre. Sure, this is a comic instead of a movie, but would it present the concept in a new and fresh light? The short answer is yes. Dan Schaffer crafted a story that feels fantastical yet plausible all at the same time, and slowly builds anxiety so that the reader begins to feel as though they are Willa, scared that they might not survive.  It’s no easy task, and Schaffer paces the story so that the reader feels the ever-increasing dread that undoubtedly grips Willa as she’s stranded in the ocean.

The story alone is fantastic, but the artwork compliments it equally well.  Schaffer’s style has enough detail to feel realistic, but doesn’t exaggerate anything for effect.  Rather, the sheer enormity of the sharks is plenty to create the designed visuals.  When faced with a 20-foot shark, realism is enough to frighten the reader.  Frankly, the realistic artwork helps make the story scarier; by realizing that Schaffer’s artwork is true to life, one can more accurately picture what Willa is going through, and accept the reality of just how terrifying her situation is.  When a true-to-life situation elicits fear, it does so in its purest form, relying on reality in lieu of sensationalism to scare the reader.

White was a pleasant surprise.  It was a brief yet enveloping read, drawing me in from the first page.  I’m genuinely impressed with the unique spin Schaffer brought to the story, and applaud his ability to give me anxiety over a situation that, let’s be honest, we’ve all feared at one point or another.  The story deals with a number of themes, addressing them with enough detail to be engaging while leaving enough talking points to allow for reader reflection.  This is a fine line that not all writers can balance, yet Schaffer crafted a story that continues to haunt me with its implications.  White is a great read from start to finish,  haunting and terrifying while, at the same time, thought-provoking.  It’s an awesome comic, and one I would highly recommend if you want a little fear mixed in with your action.

-Jess

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