The first Snowpiercer graphic novel was a great read, a look at how tragedy and fear can break down people into the most evil and desperate versions of themselves. In that first novel (read my Snowpiercer: The Escape review here), we learn that the Snowpiercer train has the poor and disheveled in the rear cattle cars, the middle class in the middle cars and the rich in the front cars, where the most depraved of interests exists.
That novel showed us the entire train in a trip from the rear to the front and was a very interesting look at how this society exists after the rest of the world was destroyed.
In Snowpiercer 2: The Explorers, the second graphic novel which as both the second and third parts of this story, we learn that there are more survivors aboard a second train called the Icebreaker. This train is very similar to the Snowpiercer train, which is a problem since that means the story is very similar to the first book and there is a lot of repetition.
The back of the train is the poor, there is a section that is a prison, which consists of flat boxes (similar to Morgue boxes), then there is the middle class in the middle and the ruling class in the front. Just like with the first novel, we follow one man as he makes his way from the front of the train to the back and then back again. However, there are enough differences to make this worth a read.
The man is Puig, an Explorer who lost his parents to a mad man’s grenade 15 years before this story starts. Explorers are people who actually leave the train to investigate the world outside as they attempt to discover a way to survive outside of the train. However, these Explorers are also disposable, and Puig’s early memories included the first time the train had a “brake test” and stopped long enough for the Explorers to get off for the first time. That was the day his parent’s died.
Now, an adult, he is an Explorer and when he sets out on one of the brake missions, he finds a corpse and realizes this person was from that fateful first experience and was left out to die. When he returns, he is tried for turning off his video monitor while exploring and is sentenced to a suicide mission. When the ruler’s daughter televises the suicide mission on the train’s televisions, Puig is allowed to return and given a hero’s welcome, the hand of the daughter in marriage and a spot with the ruling council.
What Snowpiercer 2: The Explorers does, that veers from the first novel, is show our hero becoming one of the ruling class and starting to hide things from the people on the train as well. This includes the fear factor that there is always a chance that the Icebreaker may one day crash head on with the Snowpiercer, and the people need the rulers to make sure that never happens.
We also meet more religious nuts, theses believing they are really on a spaceship in outer space instead of on a train, and some neat entertainment options for the survivors, including virtual reality trips to help them get by. There is also enough political intrigue to fill a Shakespeare play. The major motif of this story is a search for survivors more than a never ending round trip journey to death.
By the end, there is enough here to remain an interesting read, but at the end of the day there is the huge problem that Snowpiercer 2: The Explorers is not as good as Snowpiercer: The Escape. That hurts because as a standalone novel, this is an interesting read, but it ties so much into the first novel that you need to read both and this one just feels like a slight letdown after such an impressive debut.