Snowpiercer: The Escape (Vol. 1)

18691098Author: Jacques Lob
Illustrator: Jean-Marc Rochette
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Original Release Date:
Publisher: Titan Comics
Source: Titan Books
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Graphic Novel, Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Spoilers:  Moderate
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Though it’s been released to critical acclaim internationally, the Snowpiercer film has been in limbo so far as an American release has been concerned until very recently. The film will finally be getting a limited release stateside in it’s entirety – none of this cutting thirty minutes malarky that had been going on. A limited release will probably work better for it anyway considering it seems like a very genre specific film but hey! Now that we know we’ll actually get to see the film it’s a great time to check out the graphic novel fortunate that the graphic novel that inspired it all.

Originally published in French in 1984, Snowpiercer is a story that really shouldn’t work. It’s almost ludicrous when you think about it. A post-apocalyptic story told on an ever-moving train in a new ice age? C’mon. That’s some anime-style stuff right there.

Across the white immensity of an eternal winter, from one end of the frozen planet to the other, there travels a train that never stops. This is the Snowpiercer, one thousand and one carriages long. (Snowpiercer, pg. 3)

Set after humanity has destroyed the environment, the Snowpiercer is a highly advanced, luxury train that holds the remnants of humanity. The train is separated by classes, with the wealthy towards the front in the first class carriages while the unwashed masses live in squalor, violence, and hopelessness in the back.

Proloff, our main character, is a man looking out for himself who tries to find something better in the front of the train. Risking death, he climbs outside and scales the top of the trail cars until he finds himself captured somewhere in the second class. There he meets Belleau, an activist from the upper cars whose friends advocate for a more even distribution of wealth with the tail car people being brought up to live more equally with the rest of the survivors.

Predictably that’s not a very popular opinion among the wealthy.

Taken into custody, Proloff and Belleau (who occasionally kiss and have unnecessary sexual encounters) are taken forward through the train cars. It’s rather fascinating to see how society has developed as they move forward. There are those who believe in St. Loco, the train as a holy deity. Otherwise live hedonistic lives full of nothing but sex and alcohol. The people survive on a strange, possibly sentient artificial lifeform; one guy has a monopoly on rabbits. It’s insane to see how people have survived and how people have been divided among themselves.

Written in the 1980s, there’s a lot of political subtext in this book but the social commentary it provides on class structures and the privileges of the wealthy could just as easily describe some of the current political issues and social movements. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t really distract too much from the story. Proloff doesn’t care about improving the lives of his fellow tail dwellers and Belleau, the activist, is mostly painted as a naive little girl with no idea how the real world works.

It’s a relatively dark story that doesn’t really end happily, either. But it’s more than worth reading, especially with the critical acclaim that’s surrounded the film.

The art work is pretty simple and entirely black and white. I actually really liked the style; it was just gritty enough for the story without getting so bogged down in trying to be as edgy as the story itself. (Which is a problem that I have with some other books – like The Dark Knight Returns.) The cover is nice and for some reason reminds me of The Walking Dead hardcovers in design and coloring. And, believe me, that’s a good thing. I think those hardbacks are some of the nicest books you’ll ever come across.

I’ve tried to track down the second volume of the comic with little success. Every time I try and order it on Amazon it’s twice as expensive as the first volume and takes four to six weeks to ship so I’ll let you guys know when I finally get a chance to read it!

Final Thoughts: 
Snowpiercer is a great read and a great looking release. If nothing else it’ll look super classy sitting on your bookshelf. I’m still waiting on a definitive US release for Snowpiercer, so until then this is going to have to tide me over. If you’re looking forward to film, too, you might want to check this out as well. It’s totally worth it and, at less than $15 on Amazon, it’s not too pricey either.

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