Snowpiercer I and II by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette
I think I first read about this one on a 2013 graphic novel best of list I saw somewhere, until then I had never heard of it. It was written by a Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette and was originally published in 1982 I think at least that is what I found. Then it was later finished by Benjamin Legrand in 1999. I could not find a lot of background about the book other then it has just recently gained a lot of popularity. In fact there is a movie coming out soon staring Chris Evans based on this book. So given all the hype I defiantly had to check this one out.
Snowpiercer I is about a train that is one thousand and one cars long and is on a never ending journey around the planet on a special track. Something has happened and the average temperature outside is minus 121 degrees, nothing can survive. The planet is basically one giant snowball. On the train the passengers are divided up into three classes, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The 3rd class are the poor people on the train and never have enough food or basically anything. The main character is caught trying to sneak into the 2nd class cars and is arrested. The rest of the story has to do with him making the journey to the front of the train to talk with the president about the situation in 3rd class. Along the way he uncovers a plot against the 3rd class and is trying to do everything he can to warn them.
The story builds a very interesting world on the train. The whole time I am reading this story I am thinking about how there must be no privacy and how the author is going to build out the world with very limited space. He does a great job making a believable society on this train, one that I would hate to be a passenger on. Whether its sex or drug usage the world in Snowpiercer has many of the same problems as our own society, the author does a fantastic job of making these problems relevant and molds them to fit the society on the train.
The story is very creative and puts a whole new spin on a genre that has been done over and over. The authors do a great job of creating a really bizarre world on a train nonetheless. The characters are interesting but I think lack a little depth. To me this may be due to the following. Throughout the story there are some very choppy scenes and scenes that do not flow very well at all. Either the following scene jumps ahead so while reading you think that you missed a scene. Also, the dialogue at times was very awkward and did not flow, now this may be due to the translation factors as the book was originally written in French. Either way I found myself re-reading multiple pages to make sure I was going in the correct order from scene to scene. You do not see it often and when I was doing my own research on how to write a comic one thing I came across was to never have big scene changes in the middle of a page, it confuses the reader. In this book the authors seem to have ignored this, there are multiple pages where the main character will be in his room talking to a woman the very next scene he is walking down the isle of the train. A lot of transition scenes seem to be missing in my opinion.
The artwork is very interesting to go along with the story. It is a little like a 70’s or 80’s style but what separates it from these old styles is the fact that there is no color. Also, there are very few if any scenes that do not have some sort of background detail in them. That is always a plus in my in my opinion. Despite the absence of color nothing is lost from the artwork. The lack of color helps build a drab and boring existence that the passengers on the train experience. While reading the book there are some scenes of the landscape and the lack of color really drives home what that world would look like. I found myself thinking, yep that is what this snow covered, cold, desolate place would look like. Scene layouts are fairly typical nothing spectacular, in fact I do not think there is one full page splash in the whole book. This is not a bad thing just an observation.
The ending in the story is a bit of a letdown. At the end I was still wondering what exactly happened? There are clues, but the reader never really knows for sure. This is not a bad thing as some readers may like the ending being left open to interpretation or having to figure out what happened on their own. I am on the fence, I feel there are enough clues left to figure it out but the story really leaves you hanging.
Overall I liked the ideas the book had to offer. At time it is a little difficult to read I felt because of some missing transition scenes. The artwork is well done along with the colors, or lack thereof. Page layouts are fine, nothing really worth mentioning. I liked this story but trying hard to figure out how this got a movie deal and where all the hype came from? Still is a neat read and one of the most creative books I have read in a while. Now on to the Snowpiercer II…
As I mentioned above there is not a lot of info out there about this story in general. I assume this is the sequel, meaning that it was written as a different story but still tied into the first, and not as another chapter in the series. Honestly you could read this one and not really have to have read the first Snowpiercer. There might be a few little things that you may miss but nothing that would leave you really guessing as to what is going on.
The story starts out explaining that the survivors of the great disaster built two trains Snowpiercer and Icebreaker. Icebreaker is a more sophisticated train in every sense of the word, as far as I can tell the class system is still in place but there seem to be more amenities, luxury, and overall technology on this train. The story follows an explorer, who is tasked with venturing outside during braking test, to obviously do some exploring of the now foreign landscape. Their main goal is to find interesting artifacts and things from before the disaster and bring them back aboard the train. Being an explore is the equivalent to a crab boat fisherman, not many make it back each time they are sent out. There is a disaster while the explorer is out on a mission and he finds something that leaves him asking the wrong questions to the men in charge. Soon he is arrested, marched to the front of the train and sent on a suicide mission by those in charge to shut him up. Up to this point the story is very similar to Snowpiercer I, but it soon takes a turn in a much different direction.
The ending was better in this one overall, although very depressing, as was most of the story I might add, but such is life in the Snowpiercer world I would imagine.
The story for Snowpiercer II is very similar to the first in the sense that it is basically about a passenger on the train heading to the front and uncovers a sinister plot and along the way the reader gets a detailed look at life on the train. In my opinion I think this story is a little better in building this bizarre world on this train than the first. I felt you got a sense of more going on outside of the main plot during this story. I will say that I think this story flowed better overall that the first volume. I did not have to re-read scenes and try to figure out if I missed something during this one, so that is a positive.
The artwork is highly stylized and drastically different from the art in the first volume. I liked the artwork in the first volume better, as at times I felt this was too crude. Again there is no color, which is fine and works well for the story. Scene selection and page layouts are pretty normal nothing to really spend a lot of time talking about.
Overall this is a very creative and neat story line. If you like the dystopian society stories then you will love this. As I have mentioned before the author does a great job of building this strange but small world. At times while reading I felt a little claustrophobic just thinking about being stuck on this train my entire life. The artwork is good for the first volume then just ok, in my opinion, for the second. Page layouts are basically the same for both volumes, nothing to brag about and there is no color in either volume so nothing to talk about in that regard. Although as I mentioned earlier the lack of color really paints a depressing, drab, and desolate landscape that the Snowpiercer inhabits. Check this one out if you get a chance or just wait and check out the movie when it comes out. Not sure how closely if at all the movie will follow the books.