It’s still the end of the world as we know it and no one feels fine…
Coming fresh off the back of Volume 1, ‘The Escape’, the second volume of Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette’s now-iconic Snowpiercer graphic novel series, titled ‘The Explorers’ sees the conceit of the series – in which a global warming cataclysm has wiped out the world, save for a train (or in this case two) which continually travels the Earth, keeping the last remnants of humanity alive inside.
Forming the middle part of the Snowpiercer trilogy, this second volume focuses on a secondary train, given the fantastic moniker of Icebreaker, that is making a similar journey to the original Snowpiercer train and remains in fear that they will one day strike the original Snowpiercer, destroying Icebreaker and dooming everyone on board. It’s in this atmosphere of fear and suspicion that we meet our new collection of characters, namely our hero Pulg Valles and his lover Val.
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Pulg is our daredevil hero, as close as we get to an action star, who is wrongly accused of murdering a fellow worker as retribution for his disobedience during a training exercise. It is this act of rebellion that kickstart the events of the volume, as Pulg is sent on a suicide mission and finds a lot more in the world outside. He rounds out a colourful cast of characters who offer an interesting array of perspectives on society, class, war, religion, and faith, all of whom are fighting to survive and thrive in this strange, frozen dystopia.
Any worries that the second volume would prove a slump compared to the train-journeying adventures of the first will be soon allayed for anyone reading. The second volume evokes the best parts of the first instalment – the claustrophobic atmosphere, the way that paranoia and suspicion help fuel the fears of all onboard, the ways that the science-fiction elements are highlighted in odd, dark ways – and brings them to bleaker depths.
A particularly striking panel casts a group of populist revolutionaries on the train, praising an icon named Saint Loco, in the same light as Orwell’s dictators, while a reverend’s private collection contains haunting religious art more precise than the shapes of the huddled masses, and Pulg’s survival suit makes him a tiny-eyed homunculus, akin to an alien exploring a brave new world.
The ending of the volume (subtitled ‘The Crossing’) is devastating in a way that the first volume was not, following hot on the heels of a series of twists and turns, but even as it seemingly robs all hope from humanity’s survivors, it leaves the reader with the question of ‘what now?’. The third volume cannot come soon enough, dear reader.
Snowpiercer #2: The Explorers is out now from Titan Comics.