Snowpiercer Vol. 2: The Explorers [Le Transperceneige: L’arpenteur] (1999)
Snowpiercer Vol. 3: The Crossing [Le Transperceneige: La traversée] (2000)
First published in English by Titan Comics, 2014 (in a single volume)
Written by Benjamin Legrand
Art by Jean-Marc Rochette
The end of the first Snowpiercer volume is quite definitive. There’s seemingly little room for a sequel, and even less need for one. But this ending — like a lot of the book — does leave quite a few unanswered questions, so I went into Vol. 2 hoping for some better understanding of these threads. I can’t say that Vol. 2 really does that, though, as it actually just introduces its own share of unanswered questions.
The grand point, I suppose, is that these little mysteries of life are rarely explained and never will be. It is a part of life to wonder and to continue on with what knowledge we have. It is also a natural part of humanity to question and challenge authority, so the story is always informed by the central question: Would you prefer pleasant, placating lies meant to control and influence you, or the hard, honest truth? Like similarly themed stories (Dark City, The Matrix, countless Woody Allen films), it all comes down to whether an individual is happier believing in fantasy or knowing reality.
Vol. 2 is almost entirely unrelated to Vol. 1. The original author, Jacques Lob, died in 1990, so the writing duties here were handled by Benjamin Legrand. I feel positive that this sequel was never originally planned by Lob, but I have no concrete knowledge of this. I say this because Vol. 2 basically destroys a lot of the rules for the world set up in Vol. 1. The Snowpiercer was the last bastion of civilization, but now there’s a Snowpiercer 2? Sure, there could have been a second train all along, but it’s dumb. It’s also probably the only way to do a sequel, so I suppose if you’re determined to follow up a well-known graphic novel you gotta do what you gotta do.
What surprised me was that as I continued reading and I became more involved with the story of Vol. 2, I found it to be a very worthwhile follow-up to the original. One of the great mysteries of the original is the world itself beyond the train. We know something happened to the climate, but we don’t know much else besides the fact that there’s snow everywhere. As the sub-title suggests, Vol. 2 sees Snowpiercer 2 stopping and letting out some brave explorers on reconnaissance missions. This aspect really piqued my interest and kept me riveted to the story, even if it ultimately plays out much different than you might expect it to. It’s important to remember that these comics are never traditional action or adventure tales; their main concern is always social commentary in a bleak, hopeless world.
The art was once again done by Jean-Marc Rochette, but his style here is completely different. Gone are the realistic figures and the attention to detail; they are exchanged for swaths of gray and more impressionistic renderings of the train and its inhabitants. I have to admit that it was a hard adjustment for me to make — I loved the art in the original book — but the art here works well for this story. The world of Snowpiercer 2 is less well-defined and black & white, so the loss of detail makes a lot of sense. In some ways, though, the art shift made me feel like the first book was an actual tale in this world, while the second was some kind of fairy tale or parable told by the inhabitants of the original Snowpiercer to help them cope with the monotony and the boredom of the outside world around them. I mean, who doesn’t love a good story to take their mind off of their struggles? I should make it clear that there’s nothing to suggest this in the books, it is merely a random idea I had while reading.
I didn’t like Snowpiercer Vol. 2: The Explorers as much as the original book, but it’s definitely a worthwhile follow-up (as long as you can buy into its initial premise). Once again, the Titan Comics edition is very nicely put together in a sturdy, large-size hardback edition that represents the art very well. It comes out today (February 25, 2014), and it’s definitely recommended to those who enjoyed the first book.
Disclosure: Titan Comics provided me with a review copy of Snowpiercer Vol. 2: The Explorers.