Friday, January 31, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: A FROZEN WORLD

EYEKON PUBLISHING – @afrozenworld

ISBN: 978-0-9895312-1-4; paperback (2014)
120pp, B&W, $15.95 US

Suggested for mature readers – Thriller, horror, sci-fi

Artist and illustrator Nick Andors sent me a copy of his new original graphic novel, A Frozen World, for review.  This black and white comic links four stories and, according to Andors, is “…a psychological thriller filled with twists and turns...”

A Frozen World is set in Irongates, which is basically a city as an endless expanse of concrete and iron.  In this futuristic urban dystopia, cloud-piercing buildings stretch as far as the eye can see and also belch smoke that smears the skyline.

The first story focuses on an unnamed scavenger who introduces us to Irongates.  His nocturnal activities put him at odds with the city authority, as he violates the 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew known as “Lockdown.”  The night we meet him, the scavenger is just looking for smokes and finds that and more.  Next, we meet 86-year-old Geoffrey.  He works for “Body Patrol,” the organization that picks up the bodies strewn on the streets and disposes of them.  The day we meet Geoffrey falls on a tragic 60th anniversary, and we get to see his bizarre ceremony of remembrance.

Next, Anneka is a young girl consumed by the fear inside her, but as she grows older, fear becomes hate.  Anneka runs from her abusive past and to a life of murder and mayhem.  However, her brutality initiates a war with The Hidden Hand, the most powerful entity in Irongates.  The final story focuses on Ivan, who concludes A Frozen World by revealing his deepest and strangest secret.

Nick Andors describes A Frozen World as being “in the vein of The Twilight Zone…”  Both Andors’ graphic novel and Rod Serling’s classic television series do share a visual sensibility.  Both use the black and white visual to create a sense of mystery.  Light and shadow form the landscape for the interplay of the known and the unknown.  Andors takes advantage of black and white graphics to create a world in which danger hides in the dark, and where the light reveals the rotten fruit of danger’s labor.

I have to admit that the opening story made me think of director John Huston’s classic film noir, The Asphalt Jungle (1950), in particularly, cinematographer Harold Rosson’s photography for that film.  As the scavenger walks the city, there is even a touch of Warren Ellis’ late comic book series, Transmetropolitan.

I think that the reason A Frozen World sparks my imagination and memory is because it so evocative.  It has a dreamlike quality, but it uses common imagery and elements so that the story is familiar, allowing a broad range of readers to understand this dream.  Conceptually, Irongates is recognizable – the dystopian metropolis or the urban hell-scape.  That is the familiar. The players and their actions within this dream, however, are subject to different interpretations, depending on the reader.

If, as one of the characters says, the world of Irongates is frozen, the characters certainly are not.  Through exposition, dialogue, and action, Andors builds the characters, transforming them from the ciphers to which we are introduced into the complex, engaging players they become.  For all that they and Andors tell us, we can never be sure of them, and Andors makes them worth exploring.

I found myself wanting to plumb the depths of these characters, even if ultimately, I was wrong about them.  So what if I project upon these characters motivations and personalities the author never intended.  That isn’t an assault on an author; rather, it is a sign of how I have grappled with the author’s narrative.

Early in this year that finds much of the United States and Canada frozen, we already have a top-quality original graphic novel.  I hope that readers leave their usual favorite story worlds and take a trip to A Frozen World.

A- (the book is available for purchase on the author’s website)

Other reviews and commentary concerning A Frozen World:

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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