Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
–Robert Frost, “Fire and Ice”
The echoes of this poem rebounded in my head as I think back on The Freeze, volume 1. In Dan Wickline’s take on the apocalypse, the world’s inhabitants simultaneously freeze in place, with just one exception: Ray Adams. And not only is Ray unfrozen, but he has the power to unfreeze others.
Ray unfreezes several people without understanding his power: He simply touches them and they come to life. With four people unfrozen, someone speaks up and suggests that the group carefully consider who Ray touches next. With that logic, Ray selectively unfreezes people who have been identified as someone who can best meet the needs of a growing community—people who can grow food, get the power on, etc.—with the group trying to research the backgrounds of those best fit to be unfrozen. However, not all of those unfrozen can accept this new reality. Some see Ray as Noah or Christ, while others don’t trust his power or agree with the way their community is developing.
The philosophical and moral questions of how societies form and who gets to assess and mete out justice are asked in each passing page. Wickline does not beat the reader about the head with these questions, but poses them naturally as each conflict arises. He balances two timelines (Ray’s story of the Freeze and the present moment of a helicopter rescue mission) without confusion and does not spend too long on any one scene. While that does leave you with questions (Is Ray’s dog the only animal that’s unfrozen? How is the internet working?!), the mystery of the mutilated bodies and the intent of the helicopter rescue propel you through the story.
Phillip Sevy, the artist, is faced with the challenge of differentiating between frozen characters and those in action in a two-dimensional medium. Those who are frozen are cast in flat, blue-tinted colors, while those unfrozen are warm and rich with shadowy dimension. Objects in motion, like Ray’s taxi or the rescue helicopter, seem to glow against the flat images of stalled cars and crashed planes. While gruesome and likely disturbing for some readers, perhaps the most visceral and talented display of Sevy’s art is the frozen bodies who have had their hearts removed. He even explains his technique of taking pictures of himself repeatedly in various poses (calling them the “Council of Phils”) in the “Freeze Frame” section in the back matter.
With half-naked mutilated bodies and complex moral questions, this comic is appropriately rated M. However, teens are unlikely to be too affected by the gore, as such imagery is readily available throughout media. Reading this comic brought to mind not only Robert Frost’s poem, but also Stephen King’s The Stand in its consideration of how small groups of people adapt to form societies that inevitably devolve into parties of good versus evil. Despite the gore, the questions that the comic raises about morality and society merit this volume’s place on your shelves.
The Freeze, vol. 1
By Dan Wickline
Art by Phillip Sevy
Image/Top Cow, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: M