Snowpiercer 1: The Escape
By Jacques Lob (scripts) and Jean-Marc Rochette (art)
Translated from French to English by Virginie Selavy
Titan Books, Trade Hardcover, 110 pages, $19.95 US
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IT’S THE END of the world as we knew it in the classic French graphic novel Snowpiercer 1: The Escape, and everything’s not fine. Class warfare, misinformation and disease threaten the last survivors of the human race for no better reasons than greed and stupidity. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose . . . the more things change, the more they remain the same.
But this is a dystopian Armageddon quite unlike any you’ve seen before. The world has settled into an unending deep freeze possible caused by experiments to stop global warming, and the last known survivors of the human race are those who managed to board a 1,001-car-long sightseeing supertrain, the Snowpiercer. Much like a cruise liner, the Snowpiercer is broken into sections roughly matching the social strata of the passengers on board. The forward cars, directly behind the locomotive with its perpetual-motion engine, are a mobile pleasure dome for the elite classes. The further back one goes, the worse things get. The tail coaches are zealously guarded by the military after a revolt years earlier.
The enigma named Proloff manages to escape from the tail, and instead of being put to death by the military, is mysteriously summoned to the front of the train to meet with the President. Is Proloff a savior or a plague vector? Is he a martyr for a cause or simply out for himself? 1,001 cars allows for a long journey through differing social strata, and the voyage allows for biting philosophical commentary as Proloff encounters various representatives of the last of humanity.
And as Proloff journeys to meet the President, two dilemmas originating at the separate ends of the train come crashing toward him: The possibility that Proloff is infected with a plague that began in the tail cars, and the fact that the Snowpiercer’s perpetual motion engine is beginning to fail. . . .
This English translation of Snowpiercer 1: The Escape comes 30 years after its original release in France, but the intervening decades have done nothing to dull its classic political themes, which are explored further in the new theatrical film adaptation by acclaimed South Korean director Joon-Ho Bong. The film stars Chris Evans (Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers), John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Alison Pill, Jamie Bell and Ed Harris, and has already met with great acclaim in South Korea and France. The upcoming American release will see 20 minutes cut from the film, in a controversial move by US distributor The Weinstein Company literally meant to increase its appeal to American audiences in the Midwest.
This collection is presented in a beautiful hardcover edition which presents Jean-Marc Rochette’s clean, propulsive art to its best advantage. Virginie Selavy’s translation of the late Jacques Lob’s script provides naturalistic dialogue that still clearly presents the political and philosophical dilemmas caused by rigid class stratification.
Snowpiercer 1: The Escape provides a rousing odyssey across a dead world, and confronts its ethical quandaries with a fierce, unblinking fixed gaze. Highly recommended.