Stew’s Reviews: Winterworld
I am currently surrounded by a bunch of Pop Vinyl characters all just sitting on my floor in disarray while I try to figure out where to put them. I don’t really have any satisfactory kind of display place for them, so they are just kind of scattered around. They deserve better than that, but it’s what I do with my collector mentality. I went a year of buying just an absolute ton of these guys, but now I haven’t bought one in months. And they are just strewn about.
A lot of my non-exclusive editions are actually in a better state, as I take those ones to work and let them line the wall of my cubicle. I keep all my exclusives at home for “better keeping”, and they wind up just lying all over the spare bedroom floor until I need to clean that room for guests. Spider-Man 2099 has his head turned and is looking at me like “Come on, man. Just put me back on the window sill. Don’t leave me here forever”. I’ll just… just turn his head the other way. Now, less guilt!
Writer and Artist:Chuck Dixon and Jorge Zaffino
Protagonists: Scully, Wynn, and the badger Rah-Rah
Antagonists: The general anarchy and societal breakdown of most post-apocalyptic tales.
I have a pretty bad habit of taking reading recommendations from folks and just filing them away in the purgatory of the back of my mind. It’s just that between reading stuff for you all, reading stuff for my podcast reviews, and reading when I can just for fun… It’s hard to fit other homework into my day-to-day life. So when Andy got on me to read Winter World because it is one of his favorite books, it took some insistence on his part before I finally got around to it.
I’m glad he pestered me.
Winter World is a brief but engaging mini-series from the 1980’s published by Eclipse Comics that centers around a wandering trader named Scully in a world undergoing a new ice age. As is wont to happen in these kinds of stories, all structured humanity has collapsed in the wake of this [presumably] global catastrophe, and mankind is reduced to scavenging and trying to survive any way it can. For some, that means creating small settlements with harsh rules and population control, for others like our protagonist, it entails being constantly on the move and collecting what you can find to barter for what you need, and for a few others it means using force to enslave people from the first two groups to make their life better.
If you’ve read The Walking Dead, you already know where this story is going, as the real enemy here is human nature. And if I have a problem with the series, it’s that the cold—the very cataclysm that caused the story to occur—is treated as just kind of a nuisance that is a fact of life. There’s no real moment where the cold itself hits home to me or felt like its own character. It’s essentially background noise. And I feel like that is a missed opportunity. Perhaps Dixon knew what he was doing with Winter World—and he knew if he extended it beyond a couple of issues, the story would lose its punch, so he just couldn’t find time to fit in making the life-threatening permanent winter a true adversary—but it is something I always miss. (For transparency’s sake, there is an extended sequel run of Winter World that was published by IDW Comics, so maybe Dixon worked it in better there; I haven’t read it)
Scully is joined on his quest of survival by a young girl named Wynn that he rescues from some bandits in the first few pages of the series. She is a fun, spunky young character who drives Scully to be more than just a day-to-day survivalist and gives him something to care about. There’s no romantic, or even father/daughter, dynamic here; it’s just the very basic sense of human connection we all need when you’ve been alone for so long. All it takes for Scully is to find someone who didn’t want to kill him or take from him, and he has what he’s been missing. Their relationship could have stood to be fleshed out a bit more, but again… it’s a short series, and it feels like no sooner do they find each other than they are separated for some time by slavers. In addition to the human protagonists, Scully is accompanied by his loyal (and incredibly well-trained) badger named Rah-Rah, who saves the hero’s butt few times over the issues.
Winter World has two endings from what I gather. The actual ending of Winter World is Scully, Rah-Rah, and Wynn escaping the slavers after Scully uses another local horde to invade the domed baseball stadium in which the slavers operate. With Wynn rescued, they journey back into the cold for an unknown fate. The collections I have always read, however, feature a last issue called Winter Sea which gives the series the climax it deserves as Scully and Wynn find the young girl’s family and the secret they are keeping from the world. Without this last issue, Winter World would feel unremarkable and incomplete. It would still be a fun tale, but it would just be a bit too open-ended and gray for me where it leaves off. Winter Sea (which was almost published by Marvel) did not get a release until 2010 and closes things out a bit better.
There’s s lot to Winter World to really enjoy. The characters are vibrant and human and dynamic. The humor is there, even in a dark world (with moments like Scully finding the horde living in a town with a Pizza Hut, and they all seem to think Pizza Hut was some great man who had a building named for him). The art is terrific. Ive droned on and on here without giving Zaffino his due. The black-and-white Jorge Zaffino art creates a rough, gritty survivalist world that is perfectly matched to Dixon’s tale. It’s as perfect of a marriage as you will find.
Talking Point: Ice age. Ice caps melting and creating a perma-flood. Drought. Nuclear holocaust. Zombies. Fiction has given us several different dystopian futures that would see our world throw into chaos. What end-of-the-world scenario do you think would be the hardest to survive? The easiest?
I really enjoy Winter World. Even with Winter Sea as the added-on conclusion, it might be a touch too short and rushed through, but as a brief glimpse into Dixon and Zaffino’s world, it’s borderline brilliant.