Comics that take place in the extreme cold often revolve around themes like isolation and survival, how when we're so far out of our comfort zone, the laws of man slip away and those of a more primal sort begin to take hold. The unrelenting elements also provide a healthy dose of built-in tension, not to mention all the brilliant black and white artwork! So with Spring just around the corner, here are some of the best cold-weather comics to see out the end of the season.
Snowpiercer Vols. 1 & 2
Jacques Lob and Benjamin Legrand, illus. by Jean-Marc Rochette. Titan, 2014
Written in 1982 in France, Snowpiercer is the story of a 1,001 car-long train endlessly traversing a post-apocalyptic tundra. After a climatic catastrophe that ushers in a new ice age, all of humanity is confined to live on the Snowpiercer, a self-sustaining high tech train that must keep moving in order to function. The passengers carry on very different lifestyles determined by wealth and status, with the upper classes up front, and most of the rest packed into rear steerage. Advancing up the sections is unheard of until one man manages to escape the back, setting off a series of events that could threaten the entire train. The second volume, takes place many years later, and centers on a new train and its passengers as they investigate a mysterious transmission, all whilst fearing a collision with the original train.
Greg Rucka, illus. by Steve Lieber. Oni Press, 1998
Originally released as a four-issue miniseries, Whiteout is a gritty black and white Antarctic crime thriller that follows hard-nosed deputy U.S. marshal Carrie Stetko as she investigates a murder at a nearby research station. Her pursuit of the illusory killer leads her across the frozen continent and into dangers beyond the subzero temperatures. Upon its release, the book was widely praised for its realism, and its creators were nominated for Eisner Awards for Best Limited Series, Best Writer and Best Penciller/Inker. In 2000, it was followed up by a sequel, Whiteout: Melt, which saw Stetko return to Antarctica to track down an illegal batch of Russian nuclear material that's gone missing. Melt was another critical success and won the Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.
Dan Curtis Johnson and J.H. Williams III, Illus. by Seth Fisher. DC Comics, 2007
Collecting issues #192-196 of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, "Snow" takes place in Bruce Wayne's early days as the Caped Crusader, and is an origin story for villain Mr. Freeze, who embarks on a life of crime as a desperate attempt to save his wife. Meanwhile, a still green Batman recruits a team of citizens to aid him in his fight, which leads to his very first confrontation with Freeze. Johnson and Williams's story is in the vein of Batman: Year One (with borrowed elements from Batman: The Animated Series), while Fisher's crisply detailed linework and pop colors really set Snow apart.
Daredevil: Dark Nights #1-3
Lee Weeks. Marvel Comics, 2013
In 2013, writer/artist Lee Weeks, one of the definitive Daredevil creators, returned to the character to kick off Daredevil: Dark Nights, a miniseries that saw a number of creators take on the Man Without Fear. In the three-part "Angels Unaware" story, Matt Murdock races against the clock and battles a devastating blizzard one night in New York City in order to deliver a heart to a young child in desperate need for a transplant. But even following a run-in with some petty crooks and a plunge into the ice-cold Hudson River, Daredevil refuses to give up even with the odds stacked heavily against him.
30 Days of Night
Steve Niles, illus. by Ben Templesmith. IDW, 2002
When the Alaskan town of Barrows enters into it's annual month-long night, the residents are terrorized by a group of vampires, emboldened by the absence of sunlight. Sheriff Eben Olemaun and a handful of the townspeople launch a counterattack on the vampires (who are vulnerable due to the extreme cold), which ultimately leads to some desperate measures and sacrifices. The miniseries, which largely launched the careers of Niles and Templesmith, saw a number of spinoffs and sequels which earned the series and creators Eisner Award nominations for Best Limited Series, Best Writer, and Best Painter/Multimedia Artist.
Chuck Dixon, illus. by Jorge Zaffino. IDW, 2009 (originally published by Eclipse, 1987-1988)
Scully, a lone woodsman in an unforgiving snow-blanketed land, happens upon a curious young girl named Wynn. The two become traveling companions, but are eventually captured and held at a colony inhabited by unscrupulous survivalists with an interest in Wynn, and the two must make a daring escape. Dixon, who'd go on to be the longtime writer of IDW's G.I. Joe comics, crafts a sparse but affecting story that explores the depths of human nature when in extreme situations, while Zaffino perfectly captures the wintry landscape with his stark black and white artwork. Long out of print, IDW republished the series in 2009, and included its unpublished sequel, "Wintersea."
Mouse Guard: Winter 1152
David Petersen. Archaia, 2007-2008
Part two in Dave Petersen's award-winning series, Mouse Guard: Winter 1152 continues the exploits of rodent warriors Saxon, Kenzie, Sadie, Leiam and Celanawe as they face a new set of challenges in the Guard's struggle for survival. It's winter and the mice become separated during a diplomatic mission to the supply-strapped city of Lockhaven, which is also dealing with an escaped prisoner. Both groups find themselves in harm's way, whether it be bats in an abandoned weasel city, a vicious one-eyed owl, or the harsh elements, and it takes all they're got to make it through.
Alan Moore, illus. by Kevin O'Neill. Top Shelf Productions & Knockabout, 2013
In 2013, Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill began the latest chapter in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen saga, this time starring Captain Nemo's daughter, Janni Dakkar. Forever trying to escape the shadow of her legendary father, Janni decides she must fulfill his unmet goal of conquering Antarctica. She sets out with a small team of pioneers to reach the South Pole whilst being pursued by rival explorers out for material gain. But as the intrepid explorers get close in on their destination, they experience mind-bending anomalies in space and time. It's follow-up, Nemo: Roses of Berlin, was released in February 2014.