March 24, 2014
A Return To The Snow Piercer
Snow Piercer Vol.2: The Explorers
Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette: Titan Comics, 2014.140pp. $24.95. ISBN: 1782761365
Last month, I told you about the post-apocalyptic graphic novel Snow Piercer. The Earth is a frozen wasteland with temperatures ranging below -124, and a single train, circling the globe in an endless loop, contains the last of humanity.
Or does it?
Snow Piercer, Vol. 2: The Explorers tells the story of a second train, nicknamed the IceBreaker. It was built after the Snow Piercer to have more luxuries and more chance of survival. That seems to contradict the first book in the series, because THAT train was supposed to be carrying the only survivors. Either way, it is a bleak outlook for humanity, and a sad look at the way a microcosm society would stratify.
The new train has a daily lottery for virtual reality “trips,” and a television host that seems to be ageless, despite our protagonists aging over 15 years in the first 25 pages. They also have a religion (Saint Loco), a cult (the Cosmosians who believe that the train is actually a spaceship), and a very strictly stratified society.
The protagonists, Val and Puig, are a bit formulaic. He’s an Explorer, one of the lower class menial workers who go outside the train for repairs and to collect relics for the elite. She is the privileged daughter of one of the controlling council members, an artist who creates virtual reality vacations. Her curiosity continues to get her in trouble, while his refusal to bend his ethics drives the rebellion, and nearly ends with his death many times over. He becomes an “everyman” hero, instantly relatable with the audience and a vehicle for exposing the true fate of the first train.
The pacing of this novel is different, not necessarily bad, just different. The first novel had a measured pace that, along with the truly inspired illustrations of Jean-Marc Rochette, that kept the reader on the edge of their seats. The second novel lacks this pacing, relying more on action scenes and fast pacing. Perhaps that is due to a bad translation, Snow Piercer is originally a French creation. Perhaps it is due to the fact that the original author, Jacques Lob, died in 1990. Benjamin Legrand (a prolific French novelist and comic writer himself) had the tough and unenviable task of taking over and continuing the story. I found the second volume a little frustrating, a little formulaic, but still a world that I want to return to. Snow Piercer, Vol. 2: The Explorers, despite its problems, is a return to a truly novel approach to the dystopian post-apocalyptic survival genre. I am hoping future volumes will put the train back on the rails.
Image Credit: Titan Comics