Review of "Journey" by William Messner Loebs

Journey” is the story of Josh “Wolverine” MacAlistaire, a 19th century frontiersman in isolated Michigan, who considers moving further west because hated “civilization” is beginning to catch up to him. This book is the first of two reprint volumes. “Journey” was originally published in the early 80s, and has been long out of print.

A lot of “Journey’s” story is concerned with going-ons at Fort Miami in Michigan, where white settlers are in conflict with American Indians (Loebs seamlessly mixes historic and fictional characters). Loebs avoids traditional “brave white man fighting savages” cliches, thankfully.

The strength of the comic, however, is Loeb’s brutal, thrilling depiction of MacAlistaire’s life in the Michigan wilderness. Whether fleeing an accidentally enraged bear (there’s no question of fighting it), nearly getting killed by a tornado, or hugging a dog for warmth after falling through ice, the most vivid parts of “Journey” are the stories of how MacAlistaire survives.


Loebs clearly did his research, and the the historic setting — like the 19th century woodlore — feels assured and believable. The black and white cartooning is terrific, with layouts influenced by Dave Sim’s “High Society,” and an inking style influenced by Will Eisner.

There are missteps in “Journey.” Some supporting characters are tiresome, one-note jokes, and the Fort Miami plotline, while entertaining, isn’t as enthralling as the wilderness adventures. Some of the fantasy elements — including brief crossovers from now-obscure early 80s comics like Normalman and Neil the Horse — feel out of place.

And IDW didn’t do a great job producing the comic book; the art comes a bit closer to the edge of the page than it should have, and on a few pages thin lettering lines fade out. A friend I spoke to didn’t like the paper choice; “Journey” is printed on a soft, off-white rag paper, rather than the bright, shiny white paper that comic fans have come to expect. Personally, I like the paper, which is similar to the paper “Journey” was printed on in the early 80s, and suits the soft brush look of Loebs’ art.

And for readers who are wondering, “Journey” utterly fails the Bechdel test. Given the main character’s total isolation from any settings in which there’s more than one woman, however, that’s understandable.

Overall, a very strong 400+ pages at an astounding price. This is real adventure: No people in tights punching each other out, just an exceptionally brave protagonist trying to survive the elements, using wits and nature lore. There’s never been another comic like “Journey,” and that’s a shame.

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