The Season of the Snake #1
Writer: Serge Lehman
Artist: Jean-Marie Michaud
Translation: Edward Gauvin
Cover artists: Simon Roy and Jean-Marie Michaud
Editor: Lauren Bowes
Publisher: Titan Comics/Statix Press
Price: $6.99 US
I think North American comics enthusiasts need to be paying closer attention to Titan’s re-releases and translations of Euro-comics under its Statix Press imprint, because the UK-based publisher bringing some real gems to potentially wider audiences. Originally published in French as La Saison de la Couloevre in 2007, Season of the Snake is one such gem. Like many other European science-fiction comics, it’s immense in scope, meticulous in its level of detail and challenging in the breadth of the world-building. But what draws you in here is how grounded it is in the face of that other-worldly imagination.
It’s Derec Finn’s first day working as a servo in Intersection 55, a hub of dimensional space travel that links a diverse array of alien species all held in balance by strict rules and protocols. Oh, but what a day. A celebrity arrives for a visit, a resistance movement showers headquarters with propaganda flyers and two warrior emissaries from divergent alien cultures end up clashing in a rare moment of violence. Something unprecedented is unfolding in Intersection 55, and Finn is going to have a front-row seat for something transformative.
The influence of the late Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius, on the artwork of Jean-Marie Michaud is undeniable. He pours a powerful level of detail into the impossible backdrop, but where the Moebius influence is most apparent is in the character design. The bulky uniforms of the human staff of Intersection 55 look just like something Moebius would have illustrated, right down to the padded, leather-like headgear they’re sporting. The tall and exotic alien warrior woman Diane Bendix is also reminiscent of Moebius concepts from the past. Later in the book, a more American look creeps into the art, specifically in the depiction of some of the human characters. A character in the detention centre scene, for example, looks as though it could have been rendered by Pat (Fury of Firestorm, Captain Atom) Broderick. It’s a little distracting but fortunately, not long-lasting. Later scenes, such as the riot, also reminded me of the style of Barry (Weapon X, Young Gods) Windsor-Smith.
The most impressive visual element of this comic book is the color. Throughout the first chapter, one is struck by the cool, antiseptic look of Intersection 55 thanks to the blue and grey tones that dominate the art. But when violence or other more primal passions rise up in the course of the story, the characters affected are portrayed as being infected, and that infection is represented by a vibrant color palette. The juxtaposition of the unrestrained brutality (and even sexuality) with the beautiful, warm colors that envelop the characters is striking, and it leaves one with the impression that the disruption to this society isn’t as awful as the violence and the insidious nature of the snake spirit might suggest.
Where the comic stumbles visually is with the lettering, and it’s likely the result of translation. Figures often jut into word balloons, making for odd and briefly confusing breaks in the text. Translating comics work must be extremely challenging, because the static nature of the art no doubt poses obstacles to changes in the length and flow of text. Only the dialogue and narrative captions have been translated to English; text components in the backgrounds remain in the original French.
Derec Finn is the reader’s accessible gateway into this vision of the future, and he makes it seem possible thanks to his relatable nature. He’s always on the phone with his mom, who’s doting about his first day in a promising new job. He’s a little starstruck by a celebrity, and he’s determined to make a good impression — and hopefully to put comparisons to his father behind him. While initially he’s a relatable everyman, he’s later revealed to be dedicated, impressive and even daring. Despite being a greenhorn and a regular guy, he’s also supremely confident, albeit in an understated way, and he’s able to connect with others, no matter how different they are from him biologically or culturally.
Ultimately, The Season of the Snake is about how policy, protocol and routine keep the machinery of an orderly society going, but those priorities suppress and punish passion. Organized religion has a means to keep a populace placated and in their proper places is also touched upon here. The insectoid messenger who’s pivotal to the plot represents the entirety of the sociological ecosystem of Intersection 55. The “infection” (my term) frees him from his hivemind, and he briefly celebrates his newfound ability to explore and express his individuality. Of course, the devastating and violent effects of the snake spirit’s influence on this orderly environment suggest on the surface it’s a bad thing, but writer Serge Lehman nevertheless instills a vagueness to the moral here. I’m definitely curious to learn more about the disruption and whether it’s an expression of nature breaking through the confines of an artificial construct or a commentary on the destructive nature of mankind’s more primal instincts. 8/10