IDW brings us back to the late eighties and into a desolate, frozen future with legendary writer Chuck Dixon and artist Jorge Zaffino’s Winterworld hardcover collection. Originally published as a three-issue miniseries by Marvel Comics’ Epic imprint in 1988, Dixon and Jorge paint a bleak, terrifying future where the world is covered in ice and civilization is hanging on by a desperate thread, scrounging for supplies and struggling to survive. The hero of Winterworld is Scully, a man with no real conscience or qualms, who travels the ice as a trade rider, exchanging goods at various settlements for necessary supplies, one of the main ones which is fuel. Scully worries and cares about nothing and no one except himself and his pet badger Rah Rah, and that’s the way he likes it. Scully’s life is upended when he unexpectedly finds himself the charge of a young girl named Wynn, and his sense of responsibility and human emotions long since frozen by the hardness of life begin to thaw.
Dixon creates a cutthroat world, where trust is in short supply, companionship is a luxury, and everyone very likely wants to kill you as soon as speak to you. Scully sees trust and companionship as weaknesses and operates as a lone wolf, and when Wynn enters the picture, he finds himself conflicted between self-preservation and helping someone else. Zaffino’s art conveys the ruthless and nasty nature of man on the brink of extinction, as his characters grimace and snarl at one another, and the sense of danger is palpable in his compositions. His deep shadows hide faces, so that you often times do not know what characters are thinking, creating a sense of unease of not knowing what they might do next. This mirrors Scully’s wariness when interacting with those he and Scully encounter on their journey. The original miniseries was in color, and I would be interested to see what that looked like, because IDW presents Winterworld here in black and white. The black and white captures the stark, barren wasteland that Scully and Wynn trek across, though sometimes in moments of high action, clarity can be jumbled amidst all of the black-and-white lines, especially since different tones of black are not used that much. But, the black and white do relay a detached savagery that fits nicely with the nihilistic tone of the story.
Also collected here is Wintersea, Dixon and Zaffino’s sequel to Winterworld, continuing the adventures of Scully and Wynn and published for the very first time. Wintersea brings in more of a science fiction element and even more grisly and nefarious villains, balancing high adventure with inspired character moments. It is harder to distinguish truth from deceit and trust from selfishness, and there is an inevitability that hangs over the story and that Scully is mightily aware of, because he knows this is how the world works, and try as you might, you cannot escape it. But, maybe you can if you have something or someone to live for, and Scully and Wynn’s unconventional father-daughter relationship is what is truly at the heart of this frozen world. Winterworld and Wintersea are heavy, dark, gory, and fatalistic, but there is a glimmer of hope that runs through the stories. As Scully risks his life in order to save the only thing he believes is worth saving on this whole frozen planet, he begins to find meaning in the emptiness, and possibly even redemption in the process, and he realizes the power and strength that come from love and loyalty, even in a place as desolate as Winterworld.