In the world of mountaineering, Italian climber Reinhold Messner is something of a legend. He was the first to climb all of the world’s fourteen 8,000+ meters peaks, and also the first to climb Mount Everest without an oxygen mask. Even on flatter terrain his feats are remarkable: he crossed Greenland and Antarctica without the help of sleds or snowmobiles, and crossed the Gobi desert alone.
All through his life, Messner wrote some eighty books about climbing, about mountain life, but above all about the need for an ecological balance between man and his environment. He made films and TV programs about the necessity to deal with the world’s mountains in a sustainable way, and in the Dolomites in his native Italy, he set up a network of museums that highlight aspects of life in and with the mountains.
After books and films, Italian cartoonist Michele Petrucci has now taken Messner’s life as the subject of his most recent graphic novel, covering his youth, including his first alpine hike at the age of five, to his adventures all around the world and the foundation of his museums.
Petrucci’s artwork is beautiful, combining classic line art with watercolours, and allowing ample space for wide vistas, as the mountains are as much his subject as Messner himself. He also finds a nice middle ground between “telling” and “showing”, transcending mere reporting and making the reader an actual witness to what’s happening.
Messner himself was actively involved in the making of this book, which is one more way to get his message across. If only for that reason, wider attention is merited.
(Michele Petrucci, Messner. Coconino-Fandango, 16 EUR. ISBN 9788876183584)