I was genuinely surprised by the ending to the first volume of Snowpiercer. What seemed like a fairly typical post-apocalyptic tale wound up on a note that I didn’t see coming at all. So when the second volume of the comic was recently released by Titan Books, I scooped it up so I could find out what happened next.
Unfortunately, the second volume doesn’t continue the same storyline. Instead, Volume 2 picks up with a different hero on Snowpiercer 2, a completely different train. Wait, what? You’re saying there are two never-stopping, socially stratified trains that harbor the last remnants of humanity to keep them from dying in the harsh arctic environment? What’re the chances?
Volume 2 tells the story of Puig, a member of the Explorers, a group, made up mostly of convicts, who occasionally dress in thick, insulated suits and helmets, and wade out into the snow. This requires the train perform a “brake test”, which the leaders claim is necessary should they ever come upon the first Snowpiercer, which is, theoretically, somewhere on the same track. However, more often than not, these excursions wind up being little more than suicide missions to retrieve some trinket from the old world in order to satisfy the whims of one of the rich and powerful on board. For example, early on we see Puig wander through an art museum to bring back a statue. Instead, he finds the body of a previous Explorer who died going on the same mission.
After “failing” in his mission to bring back the artwork, Puig is sent up in a specially-built plane to scout ahead. Puig reports that a bridge is out ahead, and so the train is stopped and thrown into reverse, as we discover there are engines on each end of the line. Of course if the fear of hitting Snowpiercer 1 was just theoretical before, the collision has become a certainty as the two trains are now heading towards one another. That is until a daring plan is suggested that could either save or doom everyone on board…
The second volume of Snowpiercer was published in 1999, 15 years after the first part in the series. The original author, Jacques Lob, died in 1990, so Benjamin Legrand picked up the post-apocalyptic train story and ran with it. However, instead of directly continuing Job’s comic, Legrand used it as a jumping-off point for his own Snowpiercer tale…sort of. There are enough references and ties to the original 1984 comic that it’s impossible to separate them, which is why this second volume is included as part of the same series, despite featuring different characters, different conflicts, and even a different train. And that’s also why I didn’t really enjoy this volume nearly as much as the first.
I’ll admit that part of my reluctance to appreciate Volume 2 of Snowpiercer is the fact that I wanted to learn what happened after the cliffhanger ending of the first series. I’d become invested in the story of Proloff, and to have that story mostly abandoned, yet still have elements of it shoehorned in to Volume 2 was very off putting. If Legrand had taken the basic concept of Snowpiercer and simply told his own story of a non-stop train filled with humanity’s last survivors, I would have been able to get on board (no pun intended). But as it is, I just don’t feel like it stands on its own well enough.
Snow Piercer Volume 2: The Explorers is now available at Amazon and other fine book retailers.