Nick Andors, writer and illustrator
2013; $15.95 PB
Reviewed by Elaine Pascale
A Frozen World is a graphic novel that combines four stories about the various inhabitants of Irongates: a stretch of dystopian urban buildings where characters from the grotesque tradition reside.
The alternate world of Irongates is dark: the images are black and white with an inky resonance. Some pages are quite busy with many panels and small script. The language is poetic and there is a nice consistency to the drawings, making it feel as if the characters belong to a particular space and time. Andors is an accomplished artist: grief and sadness become beautiful on the otherwise unattractive visages. The city setting is gritty and desolate, yet pulsing with an unsettling energy. Irongates becomes a character in much the same way that the Overlook becomes a character in Stephen King’s The Shining.
The first story (or “Link” as it is called) is “Flight of the Nocturnal Vulture.” The unnamed main character introduces us to Irongates by way of a nighttime cigarette quest. Andors lets the images tell the story here. He creatively depicts the main character tumbling among the buildings, intertwined with the structures in a variety of poses that reminded me of Art Spiegelman’s “In the Shadow of No Towers.” The buildings appear to be the character’s playground, his familiar yet confining backdrop, and also his burden. The character’s relationship to his environment is like a dysfunctional parent/child relationship: he wants to be free of his surroundings, but he is too much a part of Irongates.
Link 2 “Dying Love” demonstrates the need for “Body Patrolmen”–people who remove the corpses that litter alleyways and sidewalks. This type of employment says a lot about its city. The callous treatment of the dead is paralleled with a macabre love story that does not end with death.
Link 3 “Anneka’s Story” is one of resilience. Anneka, often naked, and always ridiculously coiffed, is a solitary avenger of the evils of Irongate. I enjoyed this link, but I really wanted more of the diabolical The Hand–Irongates’ criminal ruler. The writer in me was intrigued with all of the possibilities of The Hand’s story and connections to the other characters.
Link 4 “A Cold Farewell” is a quiet look at science as an almost illogical addiction. It was a brief link, but it told a full story of the pain of flying “too close to the sun” in a world encompassed by shadows.
A Frozen World, with its violence and nudity, is for adult audiences. The ambiance is claustrophobic and bleak, countered with imaginative and visually interesting images. The sedated characters provide a curious counterpart for the energetic art. Despite being haunted by the stories, I am glad that I took the time to pound the pavement of A Frozen World.