Go North

Nunavik by Michel Hellman. Pow Pow Press, 2017. 9782924049358. 149pp.

I couldn’t make it to TCAF again this year, so I’m making it up to myself by ordering a few French and French Canadian graphic novels. I loved Hellman’s Mile End, a graphic novel about the neighborhood of the same name in Montreal, so ordering this was a no brainer. And it turns out to be a sequel, kinda — it starts with a conversation about it between Hellman and Pow Pow’s publisher on a bench in front of Wilensky’s, and then with Hellman trying to draw another book about his neighborhood before finally setting out on a trip to Canada’s north. (His wife thinks it’s an odd sort of mid-life crisis.)

Hellman flies via prop plane (with lots of stops) to Kuujjaq. The guy next to him on the plane wants to know if he’s going to hunt, find a girlfriend, or to escape child support payments, and can hardly believe he’s a tourist. But after they land he shows Hellman around, and it gave me a great sense of the place, a thriving metropolis of the North with about 2,200 people, a giant junk yard, and a rather sad bar scene. Hellman goes outside after a night of drinking to witness both the northern lights and an idiotic four-wheeler crash. And that night sets the tone: the people are friendly, the place is gorgeous and scary, and it’s beautiful and frustrating and somewhat exhausting to people from the south. He heads north to hike over tundra to Pingualuit Crater, traveling a bit with a film crew trying to capture a caribou migration, and generally has a trip I’d love to make (except for those low-flying, exceedingly long rides in prop planes). Hellman Includes bits about the local history and culture. Most unexpected fact: the Inuit love to golf, and villages have courses in the tundra. And I learned about the Dorset culture for the first time, a race of “giants” who inhabited the area before the Inuit.

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