Friday, January 31, 2014

Review - A Frozen World


"It's an unnatural world. A concrete and iron lake of fire...a vast urban hell known to those who live there as Irongates."

If literature is any indication, the future of humanity involves any combination of zombies, vampires or robot uprisings. The common theme among all three is the concept of a mega-city, culling all the remaining survivors into one location that is typically ruled with a dystopian bent. While that concept isn't exactly new, it does offer a great setting for a book like A Frozen World to explore the daily lives of some of the citizens in that world. A Frozen World is written and illustrated by Nick Andors.

Irongates is a lovely city...if by lovely city you mean an almost endless expanse of concrete and iron. The inhabitants go into lockdown every night and corpse collectors traverse the city every morning to clean up the previous day's activities. Four citizens get all the attention here though. The first is a scavenger with a penchant for cigarettes, the second is Geoffrey, an 86-year-old Body Patrol worker, the third is Anneka, a young girl with a drug-addicted mom and abusive father and the fourth is Ivan, a man with a strange secret. The four characters comprise the heart and soul of Irongates and each have their own trials and tribulations to contend with.

A Frozen World is nothing if not both ambitious and deeply disturbing in its own right. Andors has taken the dystopian city concept and delved into its inhabitants and their plights. The four characters focused on represent microcosms of the city's senses as a whole and--in that regard--Andors personifies Irongates as one large, living being. That being is a cold, bitter individual with little regard for those within and, in fact, the citizens themselves are fighting to break free of the city's clutches. The writing itself is a little direct in that there are some cases where Andors narrates the action as opposed to letting the illustrations carry the action and some of the dialogue is a little forced. The themes of the story though are very deep and explore the human psyche from multiple angles.

Andors also handles the art and he infuses A Frozen World with illustrations evocative of MC Escher. There are a few illustrations where different facets of Irongates seem to blend into one another to make a larger picture, which achieves a sufficiently eerie effect of making the city feel alive. This is further emboldened by Andors' reliance on black and white to further convey the isolation and destitute conditions inhabitants of Irongates suffer on a daily basis. He also offers a variety of different panel layouts to keep things fresh, including some rather haunting full-page panels that really suck the reader into the city itself.

If there's one thing that A Frozen World does very well, it's that it really engages the reader to challenge some of their views of society, both in the present and in a larger, more hypothetical sense. The citizens of Irongates are not living very good lives, yet you'd be hard-pressed to compare the woes of one to another. The point is that they're all suffering and the city seemingly offers no means of escape from their dire situations. Andors' story is very chilling and even existential to some extent, as most of the main characters question and challenge their existence in a dystopia such as Irongates. And that's where A Frozen World excels: it requires the reader check their optimism at the door in exchange for a grim realism of what life is really like for many others.

A Frozen World is available now.

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