Frostbite: First Impressions

frostbite-vertigo-comicsWriter: Joshua Williamson
Artwork: Jason Shawn Alexander
Publisher:
Vertigo Comics
Issue #1: November 2016

THIS PREVIEW IS SPOILER-FREE

From the publisher:

Long after Earth has entered its second ice age, humanity has learned to cope with the frozen elements. In this cold and bleak future, heat is power, and brutal gangs roam the icy wasteland looking for it. If that wasn’t enough, a terrible disease nicknamed “frostbite” is literally freezing people from the inside out. Once you catch it, the effect is instantaneous. There is no immunity, there is no cure.


frostbite-coverMy comic book addiction is starting to get as bad as my board game addiction. I’m still waiting for Hadrian’s Wall #2, a buddy of mine loaned me his copy of Civil War to read, and I have about four or five serial titles sitting on my nightstand waiting for me to get caught up. Meanwhile, Newsarama keeps turning me on to all kinds of new content. It really is impressive what great literary content lies beyond the “costumed adventurers” and “masked vigilantes” for which comic books are so notorious. This month’s new obsession is Frostbite, a six-part serial by writer Joshua Williamson (known for Flash:Rebirth and Nailbiter) and artist Jason Shawn Alexander (known for Empty Zone and Batman: Arkham City). Set in a dystopian future where scientists have completely screwed things up—this time in regards to climate rather than nukes, pandemic, or zombies—our socially outcast anti-heroes come fully equipped with a surivalist, anti-authoritarian, manga-like mindset. And if they violently slaughter just the right scumbags, they might unwittingly save humanity. Or epically die trying. Guilty pleasure all the way. Here’s some talking points:

What’s Not Working So Much for Me…

I only have one tiny gripe about the debut issue, and it’s really only a half-gripe. My first impression is that the pacing is a little bit fast. Not a lot of time or panel space is spent on establishment, mood, or tone, and the plot points are spilled out at a pretty quick clip. So quick, in fact, that it feels just a little bit contrived. However, there’s something that’s also very promising about this, which I’ll come to as my last positive point.

What’s Kicking Ass Already in Issue #1…

  • Ambiguous future date. You may find it a small thing, but I very much appreciate that the story is set “fifty seven years into the New Ice Age,” and that this tells me absolutely nothing about when that is relative to today. I always find it to be a bit of a clumsy mistake on the part of spec-fiction writers when they pick a hypothetical future date, or even when they cheeseball it with something like “the year 24XX.” Come on. We all remember how disappointed we were on October 21, 2015... Some pitfalls like this, especially when it regards technological advancements, are unavoidable for SF creators, and some franchises, like Dune and Star Trek, have started their reckoning so far in the future that it
    img_0213

    A transient man is consumed by the “frostbite” epidemic.

    almost doesn’t matter. Almost. Still, better to leave it completely ambiguous if you ask me. That’s just one fewer distraction from full-immersion in the fantasy.

  • Artwork. Probably not surprising at this point, but the artwork is great. I don’t suppose I’ll ever write a review of a comic that I think has terrible artwork, since I’ll probably never read it in the first place. In Frostbite, Jason Shawn Alexander’s gritty style reminds me of Frank Miller, though I’d say Alexander’s is cleaner, as Miller’s style strikes me as a little bit sloppy in places. The colors by Luis NCT really pop as well, really emphasizing the intensity of temperatures within this bleak frozen world, from the soothing warmth of a furnace to the blazing inferno of an explosion, and even to the deathly chill of the “frostbite” epidemic, which makes the climate feel utterly Mediterranean by contrast. There is real feeling in this art.
  • Lots of Potential. The flip-side to my pacing complaint from above is that the creators haven’t wasted any time. It’s certainly a delicate balancing act between boring your audience, setting the right mood, and rushing your story. With everything that’s already happened in Issue #1, there’s a promise from these creators that the remaining five chapters in this series are going to be absolutely jam-packed with story. So the pacing may be just right after all; while I’ve sat down anticipating something more like 2001 (not surprising since I’m still reeling from Hadrian’s Wall), Frostbite may in fact prove to be more in the tradition of Mad Max.

fullsizerenderAs an afterthought, I sometimes like to speculate whether a textual source would translate well to a movie-adaptation. The biggest struggle that nearly all movie adaptations suffer is the inability to present in a short two hours all that the source material has to offer. Therefore, I find that shorter works translate much better and make for fantastic movies. (This is why Shawshank Redemption was so good, being based on a short story, while the prospect of The Dark Tower is currently so terrifying. Check back with me after opening weekend…) Frostbite already shows great potential for adaptation; its pacing is suitable to screenwriting, and as has been the case with several of Frank Miller’s pieces now, the comic creators have already provided a perfect storyboard. The only problem would be the pandemonium over which actress to cast in the role of the beautifully non-white lead…

Frostbite #1 has a cover date of Nov’16, but copies are on sale already. Frostbite #2 is scheduled for release on October 26. Light a fire and blaze over to your local comic shop to get this title on your pull-list, and if they’ve got a copy, pick up #1 before it gets put on ice.


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