Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. This week, Brandy recommends ‘Snow Day’, out now from Humanoids Publishing.
By Brandy Dykhuizen. Set in a small factory town in a frigid flyover state, Snow Day follows the path of an outsider sheriff struggling to assert his authority in the oddball village he’s stubbornly chosen to call home. It’s a remarkable study in muted storytelling, forgoing plot twists and heavy-handed devices in favor of letting its negative space do most of the work.
Pierre Wazem examines isolation amongst the masses; like a snowflake in a blizzard, Sheriff Spencer’s unique role has been largely whited out by the company he keeps. His determination to extend his sphere of influence beyond his cat fuels what could be interpreted as a Napoleon complex (much is mentioned regarding his small stature), but he seems to have a genuine desire to instill order in a town that’s gotten a little too comfortable with poor behavior. Spencer maintains an eerie silence as he repeatedly attempts to arrest some factory hooligans. The town stares on in disbelief, and we get the feeling that even the perpetrators eventually comply out of sheer curiosity.
In the end, shots are (accidentally) fired, but the only real damage is to the mayor’s comb-over. Even the high drama of pushing a car for miles with a snow plow occurs in a stoic manner, the vehicle looking almost bored with its heavy-lidded taillights sliding along compliantly. Snow Day may be a story about shaking things up, but the approach is deliberately self-aware. As the sheriff notes, “You can’t deal with the cold by breaking the thermometer.” Problems don’t just go away when we ignore them, as lovely as it is to think otherwise.
Wazem can capitalize on the sparseness of the book’s dialogue because artist Antoine Aubin is on hand to expertly fill in the gaps. His images scratch across the page in a scattered black and white, like a dead branch scraping a window during a snow squall. Aubin fills the pages with patterns and disturbances, and illustrates the accumulated obstructions in a workmanlike fashion: snow collects uniformly in window panes and tire marks bisect the roads. In a town where stagnant martyrdom is seen as a strength, the inhabitants have plenty of discomforts to tune out.
Dozens of visual details scattered throughout Snow Day put the reader right in the middle of the tale. Juxtaposing a cat lounging on a warm bed with the inhabitants of the drunk tank curled up on their prison benches makes us feel the icy discomfort in their bones. The deeply shaded noses of the story’s men, whether from semi-permanent frostbite or perpetual inebriation, aptly conveys the desperation of their day-to-day lives. And storm clouds on the horizon mirror the factory’s smoky breath, producing a landscape in which even the frigid air can’t stay clean.
Steeped in cold and contrast, Snow Day uses a backdrop of forgotten, small-town America to provide commentary on universal struggles of the heart. Its subtle humor and chilly grip will stick with you well after you put it down. A rare work that might actually make you feel emptier once you’ve read it, its methodology is well worth the lingering chill.
Written by Pierre Wazem.
Art by Antoine Aubin.
Translated by Mark Bence.