Siberia 56, written by Christophe Bec and published by Insight Comics, is a graphic novel about a small group of scientists that get stranded on a planet with sub-zero temperatures. The crew was supposed to land at a designated research base, but due to malfunctions in their ship, they crash-land approximately 150 miles from their destination. They begin a journey to cross frozen landscapes so they can make it to the base. But the wild and unfamiliar territory of this planet has dangers that they couldn’t begin to imagine.
The very first thing that popped out at me with this comic were the panels. They are arranged in an extremely organised, linear, and perpendicular fashion. As a person who struggles with OCD, I found this to be wonderfully pleasing, aesthetically. The set-up makes it easier to read the dialogue and on-goings than the traditional panels that seem to be placed randomly as needed to compliment the story and illustrations in a regular comic book.
The illustrations themselves were laudatory to the scenery of the world’s frozen atmosphere. There’s a whole lot of ice and snow everywhere, which gives the whole setting a simple appearance. It’s actually very pretty to see cliffs and caves with hints of whites, blues and greys as a group of individuals trek through the terrain. The significant size of the crags that envelop the cast really put into perspective just how grand the surroundings are. The artwork itself isn’t crisp or precise, but this semi-blurry disposition works rather well for Siberia 56, mostly due to the snow-storm that’s taking place. This imperfect visage helps the reader to gauge just how unaccommodating the climate can be.
When it comes to the storytelling, it falls excruciatingly flat. After the first few pages, my attention span began to wander restlessly. With such appealing artwork and an interesting concept, this should not be happening. But it did. I found myself to be terribly bored out of my mind.
I believe that a large part of my indifference, and overall disinterest, was due in part to the ragged pacing. The very beginning of the comic is quite hasty, which came off confusing. One moment the scientists are crawling out of their chambers post-hyper-speed travel, and then the next the ship is malfunctioning and they’ve crash-landed. The narration doesn’t really explain what’s going on until after they’ve arrived onto the planet. Once everyone is on location, we see them begin their journey on Day 1, which is somewhat detailed in execution. But as they progress, we jump from Day 6 to Day 7 or 8 so quickly that when you arrive at Day 11, you feel as if you missed something big, even though nothing big has really occurred yet. However, the progression makes a huge turnaround about thirty pages in. Everything slows down so awfully that it’s a literal struggle to maintain any sort of care as to what the bloody hell’s going on.
The characters themselves are also a humdrum lot. With the narrative being so rumpled, we don’t get a chance to formulate any sort of connections, or emotions, towards them. They’re just four or five individuals, trudging through snow and ice to get to some base for research. What’s worse is that they weren’t even introduced properly, or at all. So, when they speak to one another, using their names, it’s hard to differentiate who is who. The dialogue itself is brutally bromidic. I feel like it tries to be comical, but all the jokes and lines used are simply too dull and overused to elicit that effect.
Like I mentioned earlier, Siberia 56 has a very interesting concept to it that would have been far more successful with a refined story and fleshed out characters. As it stands, however, it’s an unpleasantly disappointing experience.
1.5 spiders outta 5!
**This title releases on 14-Mar-2017.