Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Watch: James Bond Is Back In First Trailer For 'Spectre' Starring Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, & More Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Terrence Malick's Next Film With Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara & Michael Fassbender Reportedly Gets Titled Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' Watch: Jake Gyllenhaal Gets Bloody And Bruised In First Trailer For Boxing Drama 'Southpaw' New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books New Infographic Lays Out Canonical 'Star Wars' Timeline With Films, TV And Books First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' First Official Image: Jesse Eisenberg As Lex Luthor In 'Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice' Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Watch: First Trailer For Arnold Schwarzenegger's Zombie Pic 'Maggie' With Abigail Breslin Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join Idris Elba Replaces Jamie Foxx In Harmony Korine's 'The Trap,' Al Pacino, Robert Pattinson, James Franco Also Join 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors 10 Terrible Films Starring Great Actors Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Tom Hanks Acts Out His Filmography In 7-Minutes On 'The Late Late Show' Watch: Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Unrated Blu-Ray Edition, Will Also Feature An Alternate Ending Watch: Trailer For 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' Unrated Blu-Ray Edition, Will Also Feature An Alternate Ending New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' New Directors/New Films Review: Jia Zhang-ke Produced 'K' Is A New Take On Franz Kafka's 'The Castle' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Viggo Mortensen Reveals He Turned Down Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight,' Auditioned For 'Reservoir Dogs' Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” Jonathan Nolan Says His Original Ending To 'Interstellar' Was “Much More Straightforward” The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Book Review: Graphic Novel 'Snowpiercer Volume 1: The Escape' Sets The Stage With A Chilly Futuristic Vision

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist January 31, 2014 at 6:18PM

A train with 1001 carriages circles the earth, carrying the last remaining survivors of an event that has made the planet essentially uninhabitable. And you thought the polar vortex was bad. In this tale, the entire globe is encased in ice and snow, and temperatures are so low that death comes nearly instantly to anyone who dares to find themselves outside (this is known as the "white death"). Welcome to "Snowpiercer." While Bong Joon-ho's film adaptation continues to await a release date, your next best bet might be to pick up the Titan Comics translation of the graphic novel. Penned by Jacques Lob, "Snowpiercer Volume 1: The Escape" essentially sets the stage of what's to come, and while that might indicate a story with little narrative pulse, as it waits to explode in part two, you'd be mistaken.
3
Snowpiercer Graphic Novel Cover Edit

A train with 1001 carriages circles the earth, carrying the last remaining survivors of an event that has made the planet essentially uninhabitable. And you thought the polar vortex was bad. In this tale, the entire globe is encased in ice and snow, and temperatures are so low that death comes nearly instantly to anyone who dares to find themselves outside (this is known as the "white death"). Welcome to "Snowpiercer." While Bong Joon-ho's film adaptation continues to await a release date, your next best bet might be to pick up the Titan Comics translation of the graphic novel. Penned by Jacques Lob, "Snowpiercer Volume 1: The Escape" essentially sets the stage of what's to come, and while that might indicate a story with little narrative pulse, as it waits to explode in part two, you'd be mistaken.

To ease readers into the world of "Snowpiercer," Lob centers his story around Proloff, a weary man from the tail section of the class-divided train, that sees the well-off up front in spacious luxury cars, everyone else crammed into the back, and armed officers keeping everyone in their place. But the temptations of a better life are hard to resist, and Proloff is caught during a daring attempt to go outside the train in order to move up a few cars. His unauthorized appearance in a new part of the train spurs fears of possible contamination or disease he might be bringing from the back of the train, and soon Proloff is quarantined. But word of his courage begins to circulate, and he's joined by the beautiful Belleau, an optimistic activist trying to bring aid to the third class. However, the duo get much more than they bargained for when the authorities at the very front of the train ask to meet them. Is it a trap? What could they want? What is it about these two otherwise regular people that suddenly interest the largely-unseen powers that govern the train? At any rate, the invitation is too good to resist and so, flanked by military escort, they begin their journey to the head of the train.

Granted, the narrative construct is fairly simple, but it's also tremendously effective. For much of 'The Escape,' Lob is establishing the unique setting of "Snowpiercer," and the rules—or lack of them—that govern those within the train. As the duo journey up to the front, we learn about the religious practices on the train, the rumors that the engine might be slowing down, how meat for eating is produced as well as the seedier aspects of life on board. Perhaps it's needless to say that the world's oldest profession will be always be fresh, and alcohol and pills are an easy escape from an existence tied to the rails. But even if technology has advanced to produce a self-sustaining vehicle that is the lone hope for humans, the concept of humanity among everyone aboard is mostly a foreign notion. Inequality, maintained by force, is a method of control from the old world that is still maintained in this harsh new reality, and so it follows that resistance brews.

Drawn by Jean-Marc Rochette, "Snowpiercer" is presented in stark black-and-white, a fitting artistic approach given the grim setting of this wintery tale. Indeed, color would not have as effectively captured the starkness of the outside world, an unending blanket of chilly white that only promises death. While inside, it's darkness and crowds that are a constant for those in the tail end, while up front the two-tone drawings convey the relatively spacious accommodations of those granted that luxury. Sin and squalor, hope and despair, romance and violence—Rochette's pen doesn't temper the range of emotions that are spread throughout the 1001 carriages. That being said, the illustrator's world can be confusing at times. There is a disorienting sameness to the various officials and military men—craggy-faced, often with facial hair, bundled in uniforms—that it can be difficult at times to clearly understand which character is which. And while Rochette nails the tone of Lob's story, one wishes both the author and artist had taken a breather from the thriller-style pace, to more greatly detail the Snowpiercer itself. It's presented as a marvel and miracle of human engineering, and while we get a sense of how it operates, we get less of a taste the grandeur of the train, particularly up front.

However, I wonder if this would be a complaint I would have had if "Snowpiercer" were presented as a novel. Admittedly, it's a criticism that only came to light after the all the pages were turned in a rather quick succession, with "Snowpiercer Vol 1. The Escape" proving to be a mostly ripping read. It's an engaging and clever take on the usual tropes of the apocalypse/survivalist genre, with an inventive setting and a rather grim assessment of how humans would treat each other even as humanity comes close to becoming extinct. And while I have yet to see Bong Joon-ho's film, just from the clips and trailers it would appear he's made some modifications, which likely serve the purposes of presenting this tale cinematically. But until that movie arrives, the graphic novel will be suitable substitute for those looking to board this futuristic tale. [B]

"Snowpiercer Vol 1: The Escape" is in stores now. "Snowpiercer Vol 2: The Explorers" hits shelves on February 25th.

This article is related to: Reviews, Review, Snowpiercer


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates