Snowpiercer Vol. 1: The Escape
By Jacques Lob
Illustrator: Jean-Marc Rochette
Translator: Virginie Selavy
Publisher: Titan Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel/Dystopian
Snowpiercer is the enthralling and thought-provoking post-apocalyptic graphic novel that inspired the critically acclaimed movie starring Chris Evans (Captain America, Fantastic Four). Originally published in French, this marks the first time that Snowpiercer will be available in English.
In a harsh, uncompromisingly cold future where Earth has succumbed to treacherously low temperatures, the last remaining members of humanity travel on a train while the outside world remains encased in ice.
The surviving community are not without a social hierarchy; those that travel at the front of the train live in relative luxury whilst those unfortunate enough to be at the rear remain clustered like cattle in claustrophobic darkness. Yet, things are about to change aboard the train as passengers become disgruntled…
This is a unique situation for myself. I have found that elusive case of a film actually superseding a book, or in this instance, a graphic novel. I discovered Snowpiercer on Netflix a few years ago and fell hard. The haunting cinematography and fast paced dystopian plot impressed. It also happens to boast a favorable cast. So I picked up the graphic novel with a pretty high standard in place.
The plot offers a potential that was better executed on-screen and failed to fully come to life within the pages of this first volume. The blurb is pretty definitive and there is no need to explore the concept in-depth. Perhaps the biggest barrier standing between myself and possible love for this post apocalyptic story would be dialog. It leaned heavily towards dry and flat. There seemed to be a lack of real depth within the story, yet so much was happening.
The artwork was the one element that actually carried me through to the end. Had it not been for the bold, grey-scale illustrations offering a simplistic yet fitting representation of this bleak and dismal situation, I may have shelved this one. I struggle to imagine this story unfolding in full colour. Even the film was visually drab in the best of ways.
The characters play their part but offer little in terms of interest. Again, I have to blame dialog. I found myself disappointed with the portrayal of women within this container like society, viewed more as sexual objects and contributing little of value. To be fair, that could be the result of the current societal structure in such confined spaces, but I could not get into or support the idea.
While this was certainly not a terrible read, it failed to be an impactful one. I do feel that the GN places more emphasis on the political aspect of the story and manages to convey this successfully which was appreciated. But there were a lot of lack luster moments that struggled to capture just how dire the situation has become. I have read that there are some translation issues that might be at fault, but I honestly cannot offer any insight into the truth of those comments.
The end result for myself was “okay”. I don’t believe I will pick up the second volume right now. This is a series that boasts a fascinating story-line but is moving at a very leisurely rate. If you don’t mind the pacing, perhaps test the waters. For now however, I recommend the film which happens to be a favorite of mine.
Here is a trailer for those of you who might be interested.