Snow Angels: Library Edition – Graphic Novel Review

Snow Angels is a science fiction story that might have slipped under some readers' radars when it was first released, but this new edition is a book that we absolutely recommend picking up.

Jeff Lemire is one of those writers whose work you’ll find at ‘The Big Two’, having written some great stuff for both Marvel and DC Comics, but if you really want to see Lemire’s best work you have to look at his creator owned stuff: things like Sweet Tooth, or Black HammerSnow Angels: Library Edition brings together the complete ten issue run of the Lemire (and artist Jock) science fiction tale for the first time, and is an absolute must read.

The story begins on a cold, desolate world. A world covered in ice and snow. We meet a father and his two daughters: twelve-year-old Milliken, and eight-year-old Mei Mei, who are living in The Trench. The Trench is a huge rift in the never-ending show, a canyon that allows the small group of humans to survive in conditions that would otherwise guarantee their deaths. There are only really three rules in regards to The Trench, rules that the girls have had drilled into them since they were born because they could mean the difference between life and death.

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The first rule: The Trench provides. Anything that the people might need to survive, from food, to scavenged items, are all present within The Trench. Rule two: you must never, ever leave The Trench. There is only death awaiting anyone who decides to leave The Trench; with winds that can strip the flesh from your bone, snow in every direction, and the mysterious Snowman prowling the ice, leaving The Trench is a death sentence. The final rule: The Trench never ends. It goes on forever, and trying to find the end will only bring madness and death.

The three of them are out hunting one day, tracking food for their community, but return to find everyone dead. The bodies have been torn open, sliced apart, and blood stains the snow. The Snowman has finally come for them. The old children’s tale seems to be true, as a mysterious figure begins chasing the three survivors, hunting them through The Trench. However, when the three of them discover the impossible, the end of The Trench, nothing will ever be the same for them.

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Snow Angels is a story with a ton of mystery to it. As the story begins we’re dropped into the middle of an unrecognisable world, one where the constant snow and ice have made just surviving a constant battle. But where is this place? Is this an Earth that has gone through an ice age, or is it an alien world? Where does The Trench come from? Who or what is the frightening Snowman who’s hunting the central family? What are the mythological Colden Ones, and do they really exist? It feels like every new concept we get introduced to throughout the story is a further puzzle, an additional mystery that needs answering in order to solve the greater questions. But despite this, the book never feels overwhelming, you never feel like you’re getting lost. This is down to the strength of the writing.

Lemire is very clever with Snow Angels because he gives the reader enough time to get used to each new shift and twist in the tale before introducing a new one. We have time to get to know the three characters, to see what kind of people they are, and to understand their way of life before that’s forever changed with the arrival of the Snowman. We’re given time to get used to the idea that they’re being hunted by this thing through The Trench before the book takes The Trench away from us completely. Upon seeing the length of the book I was initially a bit apprehensive, as near to 300 pages is a big commitment.

However, it never once feels like you are reading a huge, bloated story. Because each of the pieces of the tale are given enough time to breathe and to settle in before something new is brought in, the book is big, but it isn’t long. I completed Snow Angels in a single sitting because the story moved at such a brisk pace, kept me wanting to find out what happened next, and I just didn’t want to put it down. Lemire has done an amazing job at balancing pace, action, and length to create a story where it feels like you get a lot more time with it than most creator owned one-off tales – though you do also come away wishing it had been even longer.

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Jock’s art is also another huge factor in the book being such a good read. His artwork lends itself brilliantly to this story and setting, and some of the best parts of the book are the moments where Jock delivers a huge, two page spread of the vast nothingness of these locations. The stark white, the effects of the howling, snow filled winds, the tininess of the characters on the page, all come together to sell us on the almost hopelessness of the situation. But there are lots of moments of beauty to be found here too, and Jock is able to turn desolate and barren locations into scenes that look beautiful on the page. It’s hard to see this book working as well as it does with any other artist working on it, and it feels like the perfect marriage between artist and script.

Snow Angels is a story that might have slipped under some readers’ radars when it was first released, but this new edition is a book that I will absolutely be recommending that people pick up. From the mystery of the story and setting, to the tense action and horror of the Snowman chasing our heroes, to the tender moments of love this family shares, there’s something here for every reader. Plus, it just looks absolutely gorgeous too.

Snow Angels: Library Edition is out now from Dark Horse.

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