Sunday, November 9, 2014

8th Canadian Challenge - 8th review - Snow

I really wanted to like Snow, a graphic novel by Benjamin Rivers, but I simply didn't for a combination of reasons that may seem trivial or besides the point but that obviously bothered me.  The book can be ordered directly as a digital download here, and apparently there is a throwback video game that can be played, though I have not done so.  The comic was the basis for the movie Snow (which I have not seen), though possibly I would have liked that better, for reasons that may become clearer soon. 

I thought I would like it because I like Toronto and I remember hanging out a fair bit on Queen Street West in the 90s and many of those stores have closed, which is a recurring theme in Snow.  How many graphic novels tackle gentrification and its impact on small business owners?  However, Rivers pushes it too far with almost all the stores and bars Dana (the main character) frequents closing down (or burning down!) in the course of the book.  Rivers admits at the end that a handful of these locations are still in operation.  It was just a bit too much for even the hardware store to close on top of everything else.  We get it already -- rents are too damn high.

Anyway, I read it and thought there were a few too many coincidences for my taste, but it was ok.  Then I turn to the last page where Rivers lists some trivia.  He says that everyone thinks Dana is a young Asian woman when in fact she is a youngish (32) French-Canadian.  I know it sounds bizarre to say this changes everything for me, but it does.  (Incidentally, this is where the film is a bit "better" in the sense that Dana's background is far more obvious.)

Frankly, many of Dana's actions are understandable for a mid 20 year old, but not nearly so much for someone in their 30s.  I know the other bookstore clerk, Chen, keeps asking her why she is so jumpy around the store owner when she has been working there 4 years, but that could still put her at 25 or 26.  I just found Dana far less believable a character as a 32-year old than as the twenty-something I assumed she was.  I guess I've never run into any French-Canadians going out for a drink but that then want cranberry juice instead of beer.

But seriously, my gripe goes to the artwork.  If everybody and their mother says you've drawn an Asian girl and you insist that she is a 32 year French-Canadian, then maybe it is your technical skills that need a bit more polish.  And ultimately that is the real reason I found Snow a disappointment.  You can see and decide for yourself in this panel.

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