Writer: Jeff Lemire
WHAT IS IT?
A dystopian survival story set in a harsh, frozen wasteland in a possibly post-apocalyptic world.
Think The Road meets the Night's Watch plotline from Game of Thrones.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
On Milliken's twelfth birthday, her father takes her and her young sister Mae Mae out on a hunting trip far from the encampment they call home. As they skate down the ever-expanding, icy, barren trench they've lived their whole lives in, Milliken reflects on her upbringing, noting that she'd rather be a boy so she could hunt with her father more often. After killing a wolf, the three settle down in a cave for rest and Milliken teases her sister, saying the Snowman will come to get her if she doesn't sleep through the night.
On the way back home, the family comes upon a grizzly sight of their slaughtered neighbors. Frantic and terrified, the father hides Mae Mae and Milliken away as the sound of skates approaching gets louder and the smell of blood fills the air. Who or what could have ever done such a horrible thing?
Lemire builds a compelling and consistent universe with nothing but a small family, some subtle modes of speech, and a ton of wide, open space.
Jock's artwork is stark and textured, perfectly matching the bitter tone of the characters and the vast emptiness of their world. His monochromatic colors and windburned brushstrokes immerse the reader so completely that they'd be forgiven for subconsciously shivering.
Wands's wavering, uneven caption boxes give so much character to the narration, reinforcing not only the fact that a child is delivering it, but also the hostile world she inhabits.
The subtle hints at world-building beyond what is readily available on the page set up an intriguing mystery for the reader and give a compelling reason to continue reading future issues.
The characters are bitter, defensive, and even a touch cruel, yet never become unsympathetic because they're a reflection of the environment around them. It's incredibly telling that, even in their closest familial relationships, affection and intimacy are reserved and given with great difficulty.
The limited use of red sells the danger present in the final scene. After building such a cold, lifeless world and only associating the color red with heat and life, its use to denote violence is striking and anxiety-inducing.
The uneven panel design and frequent splash pages create an unease in the reader as things steadily begin to fall apart in the narrative.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
With such a large emphasis on world-building, there's little plot to speak of. Though the frequent splash pages are striking and gorgeously rendered, one can't help but wonder if they aren't mostly there to pad the page count.
There're some questionable lettering choices that a casual reader may not notice or care about, but are distracting to anyone even remotely concerned with craft.
Similarly, there's a couple of world-building elements that don't make sense on a fundamental writing level. For instance, Milliken recounts the three rules that she's been told her entire life, but only one of them is actually a rule, the other two are just things about the world the author wants to tell us about. It's a clumsy way to get the point across and the reader's immersion suffers for it.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The word that comes to mind when I think about Snow Angels is "cool." The visuals are enthralling, the style is unique, and world-building fundamentally works. It's hard not to feel compelled to read further just to find out more about the mystery and to invoke the specific mood that reading it creates.
I can't say that I'm being thematically challenged or pulled in by the characters the way I would for something like Coffin Bound or Giga, but I'd be lying if I said that Snow Angels doesn't have its hooks in me. If you love art that perfectly encapsulates the vibe of a story, a well-done monochromatic color scheme, or frigid, hostile settings that characters are forced to thrive in, there's probably something here for you to enjoy.
WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
The Nobody by Jeff Lemire
Year Zero: Volume 1 by Benjamin Percy & Ramon Rosanas
Mountainhead by John Lees & Ryan Lee
If you like the art:
Wytches by Scott Snyder & Jock
Black Stars Above by Lonnie Nadler & Jenna Cha
Sea of Sorrows by Rich Douek & Alex Cormack
ABOUT THE CREATORS:
Jeff Lemire (@JeffLemire) - Writer
Prolific: Has released a truly stunning number of quality comics in a fairly short amount of time
Multitalented: Often both writes and does art for his comics using his signature watercolor style
Is good friends with Matt Kindt, who also writes and illustrates his comics with a style similar to Lemire's
Jock (@Jock4twenty) - Illustrator
Outlander: Mark Simpson, better known by his pen name Jock, is from Great Britain and got his start in comics at British indie publisher 2000 AD.
Household Name: Aside from his work on well known properties like Batman, Wolverine, and Wytches, he's also well known for his concept art on films like Ex Machina, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Hancock.
Award Winner: Has been nominated for an Eisner award for his cover art and granted the National Comics Award for best new talent and the Stan Lee award for Best Ongoing Series.
Steve Wands (@swands) – Letterer & Design
Multitalented: Also writes the indie comics series Stay Dead
Most of his work has been for DC Comics titles
Dream Team: Also lettered Lemire's comic, Descender
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