Saturday, June 25, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Snow Piercer Volume One: the Escape by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette

Image courtesy of Comic Book Resources
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed.

By Rachel Johannigmeier

“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” (Lob 3). This is how Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape, or (in its original French title) Le Transperceneige begins its journey.

Created by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, along with help from Benjamin Legrand, this dystopian graphic novel presents a society forced to live in the train, the Snowpiercer, to survive. Humanity, morality, and politics are addressed and challenged in the narrative, and by the end of the journey, it is unclear who or what will survive in this future.

Image courtesy of Comic Book Resources
Graphic Novel Information:

Title: Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape

Creators: Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand, and Jean-Marc Rochette

Writer: Jacques Lob

Artist: Jean-Marc Rochette

English Translation: Virginie Selvay

Publisher: Titan Books (English Translation)

Audience: Adult


Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape takes place in a future that is a snow-filled wasteland, and the human survivors aboard the Snowpiercer are starting to run out of necessities. The train is divided into different classes, and our protagonist, Proloff, is an escapee from the “Tail,” the end of the train with the poorest of this society. Along with an activist named Adeline, Proloff is escorted by the law enforcement of the train to the front of the train to meet with the President. As they travel through the different passenger carts, the readers can see the different types of living styles along with the hypocrisy and corruption of the train’s occupants. Ultimately, Proloff, Adeline, and the reader learn the true history of the train’s origins; by that point, the train is besieged by sickness. In the end, Proloff is the only one alive and it is clear that his story will not have a happy ending.

In an interview with the LA Times’ HeroComplex, artist Jean-Marc Rochette discusses the influences behind this 1982 graphic novel; interestingly enough, it was the concern about “ecology” and not “politics” that influenced the message of the book (Clark). However, in covering the concerns about the environment, it also becomes a story that critiques the people who shape the environment. It is a story about man cut off from nature, and after destroying nature, it begins to destroy itself through social class.

The message also becomes clear as the writing and the art depict the different sections of the train, and one cannot help but be drawn to and repulsed by the scenes and characters. A great achievement of this graphic novel is that it uses art to mimic travel and the repetition of the text about the train’s movement drew me into the story. I felt as if I was really going through the train, and I could see the differing lifestyles of the characters.

One concern I had was my lack of interest in the main characters. I find dystopian fiction lacking in interesting characters and instead focusing on people as symbols. No characters are truly memorable, and the sole female character serves as a love interest rather than an individual.

Snowpiercer Volume One: the Escape is a graphic novel I would recommend for people who enjoy philosophical discussion about human nature and are incredibly interested in the creativity of the dystopian genre.

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