Review by Frank Plowright
You’ll note that this fourth Snowpiercer graphic novel bears a new tagline at the top of the cover. After thirty years of the possibilities being neglected, the original story prompted a 2013 movie (very under-rated), and in 2020 there’s to be a TV series, hence original artist Jean-Marc Rochette picking up his pens once again in order to reveal after all this time how Snowpiercer’s frozen world came about.
It turns out there’s not any great surprise about that. Rochette collaborates with Alexis Matz on the plot, a writer still at school when the first Snowpiercer graphic novel was published, and they extrapolate the evils of the early 21st century. The opening sequences are almost a wish fulfilment set of revenge circumstances as eco-terrorists deal with ivory poachers and irresponsible big oil companies, followed by the planet’s would-be saviour Zheng underlining several other ills before announcing his plans for a train spanning a post-apocalyptic Earth with a revolutionary new propulsion system. The evils detailed are ones we all know, and certainly bear repeating, but they’re hammered home in very broad strokes, with more over the following pages, while interview as a form of explanation is used at length twice over the first twenty pages, and again later. It’s not until halfway through that the plot begins to move forward a little, as a couple of revolutionary organisations join forces to horrific purpose.
The unique selling point of previous Snowpiercer graphic novels has been that of the desperate last remnants of humanity facing unrelenting ecological conditions. At times this opening chapter of Extinction is like watching an exceptionally grim news report, with everything endlessly explained and discussed, with some character motivations contrived to comply with action film expectations, rather than being the way people would really behave. Also taking the easy plotting route is a series of sequences from the past being revealed as dreams of catastrophe.
In other circumstances Rochette’s art might be some compensation, but not here. It’s the first full colour Snowpiercer graphic novel, but the way this is drawn indicates that was a later decision, as Rochette drenches everything in black ink and adopts an unconventional and distracting form of shading faces. It’s an artistic representation of dark times, with effort applied to the sketchy detail of his panels, but there’s not enough glamour to distract from the plodding plot.
After the way Rochette bought the original Snowpiercer graphic novel to life, and the years he waited for success beyond it, no-one should begrudge him the opportunity to cash in for a comfortable retirement. However, Extinction Part One is a dull exercise that offers little value to anyone who enjoyed the earlier books, and the omens aren’t good for the following Apocalypse.