While most of the English-speaking world is still yet to see Bong Joon-ho's science-fiction masterpiece, Snowpiercer, the good people at Titan Books have acquired the original French graphic novel and are publishing it in English for the very first time.
Written by Jacques Lob and drawn by Jean-Marc Rochette, Transperceneige was first published in 1984 and tells the story of a post-apocalyptic future in which the Earth has been enshrouded by a nuclear winter. The only humans left survive aboard a giant train, 1000 carriages long, that circles the Earth, never stopping, never slowing down. Those inside are divided into First, Second and Third Class sections, with conditions aboard the train varying wildly from carriage to carriage.
Famously, when the South Korean filmmaker discovered the book in a Seoul comic store, he read the whole thing cover to cover right there. And it is easy to see why. While Bong took little more than this initial premise for his film, Lob has written a compelling story of class struggle, social injustice, religious fanaticism and inhumane brutality in what has become a paranoid Orwellian police state travelling at 100 miles per hour, from which the only escape is death.
For the film version of Snowpiercer, Bong created a whole new roster of characters, redefined the hierarchies and even the origins of Earth's eternal winter, but many of the designs, themes and ideas were taken from the original comic.
On the page, we follow Proloff, a survivor from the tail section of the train who is caught attempting to break a window and escape. Immediately detained, Proloff is quarantined, his captors fearing that "tail-fuckers" are plague-ridden and contagious. Coming to his aid is Adeline, a Second Class passenger campaigning for equal rights for all. Soon they are both deemed troublemakers and begin the long, treacherous journey to the front of the train, where The Councillor will pass sentence. Along the way, not only do Proloff and Adeline get to see the rest of the train for the very first time, but also learn about how it is governed and what needs to be done about it.
Snowpiercer the graphic novel is perhaps even more bleak and nihilistic than Bong's film adaptation, while it's certainly more sexually explicit. Understandably, Jean-Marc Rochette's artwork gives the whole affair a more East European/Cold War vibe, while the shaven-headed heroes even evoke images of Holocaust victims on their way to the gas chambers. There's a desperate inevitability about the plight of these characters, up against superior numbers, firepower, privilege and wealth, faced with no alternative but to keep moving forward.
Those waiting with increasing impatience for The Weinstein Company to finally unleash Bong Joon-ho's version of Snowpiercer can approach Lob and Rochette's source material with confidence and enthusiasm. Reading this book will in no way infringe on your enjoyment of the film, nor spoil its many surprises along the way. Snowpiercer the graphic novel is a different beast entirely, and given the gorgeous hardback treatment by Titan Books, arrives highly recommended.
Snowpiercer 1: The Escape hits bookstores in the US and the UK on 28 January. Jean-Marc Rochette collaborated with writer Benjamin LeGrand on a second volume of Transperceneige later that same year. Titan Books is releasing Snowpiercer 2: The Explorers in an English language hardback edition on 25 February and will be reviewed at that time.
Check out the gallery below for a little taste of Lob and Rochette's Snowpiercer 1: The Escape
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