Sunday, March 20, 2016

Comic Review: Snowpiercer, The Escape

For today's review we're going to do a little something different.  We're going to review a comic book.  Specifically, Snowpiercer: The Escape by Jacques Lob and Jean-MarcRochette.  It all start with a war.  It's unclear who started it or who were, and frankly that's kind of unimportant.  What is important is that somebody launched a weapon that plunged the Earth into a planet-wide ice age.  Billions died, but a few managed to find ways to survive.  Before the war a perpetual-motion train known as Snowpiercer had been constructed.  It is 1001 cars long.  It circles the world on a globe-spanning track.  It is humanity's last refuge.  

The story follows a man named Proloff and a woman named Adeline Belleau. Proloff comes from The Tail, the very back of the train and the lowest of the low in the social pecking order.  Adeline is from third class and is part of a movement to integral the members of The Tail into wider society aboard Snowpiercer.  A series of events causes the unlikely duo to make their way towards the front of the train, and towards answers about the nature of Snowpiercer itself. 


So before we begin I thought we could talk a bit about comics in general.  First of all, are they comic books or graphic novels?  Personally, I use the terms interchangeably.  Some people will use graphic novel more because they claim it sounds more sophisticated.  I really think Robin Williams put it best, the different between the terms comic book and graphic novel is about the same as the difference between the terms porn and adult entertainment.  

Now let's talk about French comics, since Snowpiercer is a French comic after all.  French comics are kind of like how American comics would have turned out if the Comics Code of Authority had never happened.  You don't really see that many superhero titles, but you do see a great diversity of other genres.  Don't get me wrong, I love superhero comics as much as the next guy, but American comics really need more diversity of genre.  So I guess you could see French comics as somewhere between American comics and Japanese manga.  You get the full colors and western writing tropes along with the diversity of genres.  

Anyway, let's talk about Snowpiercer.  I'm willing to bet that if you've heard of Snowpiercer it's probably via its film adaptation staring Chris Evans, John Hurt and various other celebrities.  That's how I found out about it; though I haven't yet see the movie, but I do plan to.  The Snowpiercer comic originally came out in 1982, but it finally got an English translation thanks to the movie adaptation. The movie might not have replicated the plot, besides the general setting.  That having been said, it does capture the spirit of the comic, and the two other installments of the comic followed other trains so it does kind of fit in with the scheme of things. 

Okay, now we will officially begin talking about Snowpiercer: The Escape.  The plot itself is very much an excuse plot so that we can see what life is like aboard the train.  This is certainly not a bad thing, and I rather enjoyed getting to know the people of Snowpiercer.  Excuse plots can be done quite well.  Besides this comic there's also the Dinotopia books by James Gurney.  They're also very much excuse plots, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would fault them for that.  

We get to see where the train gets its food from, we see the forms of entertainment, we see how culture has adapted to the endless journey and so much more.  The middle class dine on vat meat, while the first class keeps rabbits to supplement their diets, and as for The Tail...well, the less said about that the better.  There's also a few greenhouse cars for vegetable and fruits.  A scene in the movie car was a bit funny since it showed one of the movies playing as Star Wars Episode VII, which at the time didn't exist, but now it does.  If you're wondering where they get their water from it's collected from snow and ice as the train drives along.  I guess you could kind of view Snowpiercer as a generation ship of sorts.  People are born, live their lives and die all within the confines of the train; and death is but a broken window away.   

There's been a cargo cult religion that's sprung up that worship's the engine.  I also found it interesting that many named characters had French and Russian sounding names.  We never find out where Snowpiercer was before the disaster occurred, but certain hints suggest that it was in Russia.  So the mixed of Russian, French and other European passengers does make sense.  There is some really great worldbuilding within this comic.  Bonus points for taking two things I always viewed as kind of magical, trains and winter, and making them absolutely terrifying.  

Let's talk about the art.  The whole comic is in black and white.  I know that black and white comics were a bit of a trend with American comics during the 1980s, but I'm not sure of that was also a trend with French comics of the time.  Either way, it kind of works out.  The world of Snowpiercer is bleak and desolate with very little hope left in it.  The black and white art does a lot to emphasize all of this.  Plus, in a world covered in snow and ice, you probably wouldn't see a whole lot of color.  I've read enough manga so that the lack of color wasn't that big of an adjustment for me.  The drawings themselves were quite well drawn.

Snowpiercer: The Escape has wetted my appetite for the other entries in the Snowpiercer series, as well as for French science fiction comics in general.  If you're looking for a good post-apocalypse science fiction comic then Snowpiercer can't be beat.  I look forward to reading many more French comics, and maybe I'll even get a few more comic reviews over here.  

Well I think that's enough from me for now.  I will see you guys next time. 


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