Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Snow

I woke up this morning to a dusting of snow that occurred overnight here in southwest Ohio, so it seemed like a fine opportunity to read and review a book called Snow by Morgan Luthi.

The basic story is that a group of giant creatures called Warmongers are bent on destroying all life in the galaxy one planet at a time. They impart great powers on an individual, then called the Ghost of Destruction, and send him off to do their dirty work. In the midst of this, a boy calling himself Snow finds himself in Refuge City, unceremoniously nicknamed the "Ass End of the Universe." He stumbles his way into a local gang, the Crows, who're working to help the down-trodden as best they can while fending off the Space Syndicate of Crooks, Assassins, and Bandits (SSCAB). He helps save some kidnapped Crows only to find himself face to face with a pair of Warmongers.

The themes of the story are redemption and free will. Snow and his love interest, Kat, are both trying to make up for mistakes earlier in their lives by defying their supposed destinies and trying to help as many people as possible. Both choose a more classically honorable path, in effect, taking on the mantle of futuristic Robin Hoods. However, while the reasons Snow is looking for redemption are made clear, those for Kat are decidedly more ambiguous. She does say she was an assassin, but never goes into detail beyond that, nor does she seem to harbor any baggage or demeanor from her previous life. In fact, she comes across as a genuinely good, kind, and gentle person not unlike Edith Keeler from Star Trek's "City on the Edge of Forever."

The artwork didn't help matters any either. Luthi's certainly talented enough a storyteller, but his style here is decidedly light and cartoony, and doesn't seem to carry the weight necessary for a story with this gravity. The Warmongers, for example, look more like villains from a Mario Brothers game -- by rights, they should be the most imposing-looking figures in the book, but Luthi's airy style of illustration contains no real gravity despite the cleverness of the designs. The SSCAB members, too, look more silly than threatening.

I liked the general concept, and think there's some potential there with the proper execution. That said, though, I also had trouble getting past some obvious (to me) analogies to Galactus and the Silver Surfer. Like Galactus, the Warmongers physically tower over other civilizations and use a herald that they've given seemingly unlimited power to head to a planet in advance of them. Snow, like the Surfer, recognized that he was helping contribute to the destruction of thousands of lives, and rebelled against his masters, culminating in a physical confrontation. The Warmongers also sport funky headgear, while the Ghost of Destruction is largely unadorned. It's almost impossible for me to think that "The Galactus Trilogy" wasn't floating around in the back of Luthi's head somewhere when he created Snow. And, no disrespect to Luthi here, but no one can out-Kirby Jack Kirby.

It wasn't really a bad book by any means, but I don't think all of the elements gelled together in the best way possible for the story. And when you're so blatantly following in the footsteps of someone like Kirby, it seems to me that you've got to do something really outstanding to set yourself apart from him. I believe Luthi will be a good comic artisan down the road, but I think he's still a bit green here; I trust that's already changed somewhat since Snow was first published, and he might be a name to keep a look-out for.

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