Written by: Chuck Dixon
Full disclosure: I haven’t read the original Winterworld graphic novel this issue was my introduction to writer Chuck Dixon’s snowy, post-apocalyptic world. Dixon, with the help of artist Butch Guice and colour artist Diego Rodriguez, is shoveling off Winterworld to reach a new audience of readers through IDW Publishing. The result is a debut comic that comes off a bit too icy for its own good as the characters seem a bit frozen.
The good news is that one issue doesn’t make a series and Dixon will have the opportunity to better generate reader empathy with the characters but this one didn’t quite do the trick. Guice and Rodriguez bring a visual feast but the script doesn’t quite jive with it in terms of quality. Seeing a hulking derelict aircraft carrier frozen in the middle of the ocean is awesome, and seeing a gang of dog-sled pulled snowmobile bound savages chuck jimmied up Molotov cocktails at a military snow machine is sweeter still, but the result doesn’t add up to the sum of its parts.
There is one part of the artwork that really fails though, and that’s in giving us a good look at these characters. I get that it’s cold outside, but even when we should have been able to see them clearly, their backs are to us, faces are shadowed, or binoculars or sunglasses obscure their face. It was really frustrating to not get a good look at the characters especially when the script didn’t do them any favours in making them feel human.
“Winterworld #1” makes a common mistake in trying to do too much. It’s a trap especially easy to fall into for post-apocalyptic fiction. Especially in a comic where you only have a very finite space to hook a reader. They can’t just brush off a weak opening chapter and keep reading to find the gold. They have an entire month to sit, think, commiserate, and agonize over the decision to spend their hard earned money on giving you another chance. All-too-often a first issue that doesn’t blow readers away will lose a significant amount of reader-share (take a look at comichron.com if you don’t believe me).
When a post-apocalyptic story makes the mistake of missing an empathetic and character-driven experience early on, there simply isn’t much for the reader to grasp onto. Pretty much all of these types of stories are played out but the Ice Age concept is an interesting one, just not interesting enough to support the comic on its own. The characters need to become more compelling quickly so that Dixon can flesh out what the Earth is like now.
Ultimately, we need to be more than along for the ride, we need to know why Wynne and Scully are doing what they’re doing, and what they hope to accomplish. All of that is a lot for a first issue, I know, but seeing them abandon a perfectly safe and warm aircraft carrier without much explanation except for “they’ll be pissed” wasn’t enough to answer the many questions I had about the heroes.
Winterworld is off to a shaky start. A cool premise isn’t enough to make a comic. Without compelling characters this series will blow away won’t even begin to melt the hearts of readers. Dixon and Guice need to give me a reason to care about what happens to these characters, what happened to this world and what happens next. A pet badger should not be the best character in a book. But having said that, first issues don’t make series, as I said before, so I’ll be back at least once more before I write this book off as a neat idea without substance.