Saturday, December 13, 2014

Reader's Diary #1100- Jacques Rob and Benjamin Legrand (writers), Jean-Marc Rochette (Art): Snowpiercer 1, 2, and 3

There are a lot of clarifications to be made before I get to my thoughts about Snowpiercer. First off, despite the covers shown here, there are 3 parts to this story (as I've indicated in the post title). The 2nd book is actually divided into part 2, The Explorers, and part 3, The Crossing. I think Titan (the publishers) made a mistake not letting readers know they'd be getting both sequels. Also, despite the post title, Jacques Rob didn't work with Benjamin Legrand on these books. Rob worked on part 1, first published in French in 1982 and died in 1990. Parts 2 and 3, written by Legrand, were not published until 1999 and 2000 respectively. Perhaps somewhat unusual, the artist was the constant across all 3, not the writers. (Though I suppose English translator Virginie Selavy was also consistent.)

Also, if you were thinking, as I was that the comics were Korean, since the movie that came out earlier this year was directed by a South Korean, they're actually French works. (But I suppose you've already figured out that Jacques, Legrand, and Jean-Marc aren't exactly Korean sounding names.)

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, it only bears the slightest resemblance to the movie. Some characters names are kept the same and it involves the last of the human race aboard an ever-moving train, but that's about it. The movie, starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, and Ed Harris was excellent. The books? Not so much. First off, they're way more confusing; especially Legrand's convoluted sequels. There are interesting ideas, for sure (the engine-as-god religion was intriguing), but the plot had lulls and nothing really clicked together. Characters who started to be developed were inexplicably pushed to the background.

As for Rochette's art, it is very inconsistent. I'm not just talking about between the 1st and 2nd volumes either, in which you'd expect an artist to change his style and improve after a 17 year gap, but even within volumes. In the first, Rochette's drawings are most sketchy but realistic looking characters. Most often these are done well, but when they're bad, they're very bad. Characters who are smaller and in the background are sometimes left with very cartoony faces that leap out, unintentionally hilarious. Body shapes and sizes are usually believable but sometimes weirdly proportioned. Nothing is as bad as whatever the hell happened in these panels of the 3rd book:

What's up with these hands?! Did Rochette hold a contest where he let French school children design a couple of panels?

Thankfully, it wasn't always that bad. In the first book, the hatched and cross-hatched style lends the scenes a gritty quality that is appropriate for a post-apocalyptic story, and in the 2nd and 3rd books, additional gray scale inks give a bit more depth. I do wish though that the blueish tints of the covers had been incorporated inside as well. Those would have been perfect to capture the frozen landscape.

Despite it all, I'm glad they existed and that Joon-ho Bong found some seed of a good idea here to write a screenplay and direct an awesome movie. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it (though be prepared for high doses of violence). When you're finished, if you're, as I was, compelled to read the source material, be fair warned.

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