You may have heard about Snowpiercer, a soon to be released film starring Chris Evans. No? Don’t worry, I didn’t either. What you may not know is that it’s an adaptation of a French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige” recently released as Snowpiercer in the US If not, again neither did I. Luckily I was able to read the first volume and have all the information you need.
Previously in Snowpiercer: After war breaks out a weapon is used that devastates the climate, turning the world into a never ending, deadly winter. The survivors live on the Snowpiercer, a train 1,001 carriages long that never stops. While the rich live it up in the front cars, the less fortunate suffer in the back.
1,001 WAYS TO LIVE
Originally released in 1982, it’s amazing how prolific Snowpiercer is and how well it holds up to this day. Themes of inequality between classes resonate and the concept is one I have never seen nor heard before. As Proloff, an escapee from the tail, is caught and slowly brought to the front of the train, the reader gets glimpses of the class difference. It’s under military rule and the more shown, the more sickening it is. Jacques Lob does an exquisite job in addressing the real world problems that would occur from such a bizarre situation. Where do they get food? How is it stored and grown? Everything is touched upon and the solutions are well thought out. The hate and disdain the front end has for the back is disgusting and only worsens the closer to the front Proloff is gets. I found the sexual debauchery of first class quite believable and wouldn’t expect less in real life. Proloff’s seduction into it was also well done, as anyone from his situation would be more than happy to join in. There’s no future in this world, and everyone is doing what they can to ignore the situation. No doubt, it’s bleak stuff but so compelling it’s hard to put down.
While all of Snowpiercer is well written and presents wonderful, political issues and themes, some things bothered me. The pacing is slow, especially at the beginning. As Proloff is led to the front, it feels as if we see every carriage in the front half. While certain areas are used to expand upon the setting and history of the train, it seemed to be spinning its wheels. Proloff and others only talk of the rear carriage’s horrors vaguely. While what is explained is horrible, the current state of the rear is never shown, leaving the reader unclear as to what specifically drove Proloff to escape. The escape is also never shown, leaving both characters and readers questioning how he survived in the deadly climate. Other minor character interactions are strange such as Proloff and Adeline’s quick desire to get down and dirty so soon after meeting. As the book moves on, the intensity grows ending on a cliffhanger that leaves an eagerness to read the next volume.
IS JUDGE DREDD IN THIS?
Being French, Jean-Marc Rochette’s art obviously has a European look and feel. It reminded much of what I’ve seen in Judge Dredd stories in 2000 A.D. Detail is incredible with even the finest of the train drawn. Rochette gives a claustrophobic feel to the cramped cars appropriately and makes the first class look open and free. The inking and shading are also well done, lending great dimensionality needed in a black and white comic; keeping it from looking flat. Panel layout is simplistic but some problems do crop up in pages, making the reading order somewhat unclear. What’s even more curious is the fact that arrows are to used to help guide the reader on some pages while others are blank. It’s great work and those familiar with European and French art will be pleased and it will be interesting to see how American readers take to it.
BOTTOM LINE: A COMPELLING STORY ABOUT HUMANITY
Snowpiercer is unlike anything I’ve read. The premise alone is enough to attract readers and the themes and issues are still relevant. It’s a great, compelling look at humanity and its treatment of class difference. Some of the story needs expansion but that may be addressed in the second volume. Jean-Marc Rochette’s artwork shines with its European style and will be a great introduction to American audiences. Those looking for a fresh (yet extremely bleak) post apocalyptic story should pick Snowpiercer up.