Out In The Cold – Vertigo’s Frostbite Finale

by Staff

 

Frostbite has been a strong series from the beginning–it’s pretty much a perfectly balanced miniseries in terms of clear storytelling, pacing, and characterization. Writer Joshua Williamson avoids problems common to action and adventure comics like having too many main characters overloading the narrative, or gambling too much in action scenes and losing the reader in a haze of blood spray or rapid jumps between characters locked in combat. He focuses in on character in sold ways and keeps the plot and stakes clear even in the midst of dramatic crises.

The artwork by Jason Shawn Alexander (whose series Empty Zone from Image was stellar) is consistently evocative and interesting, whether we’re dealing with a murderous polar bear, Mad Max style feral tribes or just a mildly tortured conversation between the ever-guilty Keaton and the scientist Vic. Colors by Luis NCT are a big part of the world of Frostbite, and leave you feeling the impact of the comic’s environments in an almost physical way. Steve Wands’ lettering is also excellent–his use of soft edges and empty space gives a consistent sense of isolation and even a degree of fragility in the characters.

So far, the plot has been focused on getting to Alcatraz Island where Vic has facilities that could help her generate a cure for the terrifying disease “Frostbite” which is creeping through the human population in a sub-zero world. Victims suffering from the illness seek and desire warmth, but that only spreads the illness through their bodies which become quite blue-colored, gradually. Keaton suffers from Frostbite in her arms, and we see that really taking hold in this issue. So, for her, this is a partly selfish mission in looking for a cure. But we may remain in doubt about that selfishness, at least in part. Perhaps she actually cares about Vic and wants to save her? Perhaps she actually wants to help mankind?

Things take an interesting turn in this series finale in the 6th issue, one which does set up the possibility for future arcs. The series has always been suitably focused on Keaton as a perspective character–she resists interpretation due to a classic, gruff exterior, and seems to have her own interests at heart as a survivor in a world out to kill her. But the process we come to see in her is a gradually thawing even as her Frostbite creeps deeper into her veins. And it’s her recognition that some people are worth saving, and some things are worth doing, even if they seem doomed.

For me, the series Frostbite has always had a slightly western or samurai tone in the film sense. It’s a chase story, a woman against the elements story, an apocalyptic survival story, but the stoic tone and the way the cast gets whittled down feels like the last stand of a gunslinger or samurai warrior on a mission. And we like those lone figures because gradually we see their humanity, even if they usually end up riding off into the sunset, remaining a lonely legend. Keaton grows into that role because she thaws and because she comes to realize she wants a mission. That’s a satisfying arc for Frostbite in a comic that’s already visually stunning and set in a well-defined and interesting world.

Will there be more Frostbite from Vertigo? The elements that the creators have laid in place could handle a second arc reasonably well, though it would probably need enough variation in the plot to change up the visuals a little in order to make the second arc feel distinctly separate from the first. These experienced storytellers are definitely capable of making that shift.

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