A completely different take on the end of the world, Snowpiercer Volume 1: The Escape delivers a harsh look on society in a frozen hell.
From fearsome engine to final car, all surviving human life is here: a complete hierarchy of the society we lost. The elite, as ever, travel in luxury at the front of the train – but for those in the rear coaches, life is squalid, miserable and short. Now the poor have had enough: it’s time to seize control of the engine – and their future!
First published in French by Casterman in 1984 as Transperceneige and reissued in 1999, English readers now have the opportunity to read this tale as told by Lob and Rochette. Since it’s emblazoned across the cover, the upcoming movie played no small part in this translated printing courtesy of Titan Comics.
It’s difficult to discuss this work without giving away the plot twists, but most are pretty visible from early on. The world has been plunged into a new ice age. All of society is on a very long train, the rich being at the front, middle class in the middle and poor at the back. A man breaks free from the end cars and works his way through various means up to the front. A radical middle class woman protesting the conditions in the poor cars gets caught up in the intrigue. Along the way each class does what it deems necessary to maintain its status.
Our protagonist Proloff breaks free repeatedly and stumbles into consecutively higher classes of society, each time more aghast at what is available to those around him. He’s only looking for the most basic of human needs but finds with more goods comes less humanity. And there’s a religious element thrown in for good measure. It’s quite a statement on society in general that has only become more pronounced in the thirty years since originally published.
This isn’t an action story, although armed conflict rears itself repeatedly. Lob’s class tale is told through a lot of dialogue, revealing characters more than developing them. There’s no change or growth, instead rationalization and revelation. And there’s lots of swearing and nudity.
Rochette has a style that could be summed up as 80s Euro; there’s a look and feel to the lines, characters and background that remind the reader of “new” European art from that decade. Since the story unfolds through extended dialogue character’s faces and emotions play a large part and mostly convey what’s needed. There are points when it’s difficult to determine who the character is because of similarly styled facial features and character silhouette.
No extras included, strictly story here. A softcover version was published this month to coincide with the movie release. Snowpiercer Volume 1 is a snapshot of 1980s French politics cast in a desolate future.
Originally published at Comic Book Daily.