By Ben Boruff
Close your eyes and listen to "Snow Brigade" by Mew, a Danish alternative rock band. Shed yourself of the day's weight and allow the quick-fingered bass riffs and high-pitched vocals to overwhelm your brain. As the song's foreboding bridge gives way to the chorus about forty seconds in, take a deep breath, and ignore any part of your mind that does not appreciate progressive rock. Exhale slowly when you hear a youthful voice sing, "I’ll find you somewhere / Show you how much I care / Know that there is no / Escape from my snow brigade." What did you hear?
If you heard regret, longing, some whimsy, and hints of anger, you sensed the same emotions that exist in Snow Brigade, a haunting new comic by Jonas McCluggage that, according to the comic's dedication page, is inspired by Mew's alternative mini-ballad about cold, single-minded yearning.
Snow Brigade is a mystery-based, one-shot comic about a girl’s struggle to save a little boy. Marlena, a babysitter, is fighting against guilt and disbelief to recover memories of Ricky, a missing boy who enjoys skating. The narrative is simple, but it is revealed to the reader one small moment at time, which gives it an air of complexity. The reader is spoon-fed plot points through expositional dialogue and flashback panels. In many stories, such narrative gimmicks seem condescending, but the flow of Snow Brigade is the result of McCluggage’s commitment to a lean plot. Every panel matters. Like a less frustrating version of the Oracle from The Matrix, McCluggage tells “you exactly what you needed to hear, that's all.”
The comic’s artwork matches the simplicity of the narrative, and it highlights the emotional distance between Marlena and the other characters. Every panel features only a robust blue or red tint—sometimes both. The slightly shaky, hand-drawn characters and the bold colors create a suburban universe that flicks back and forth between reality and Marlena’s dreamlike mental state.
Snow Brigade’s dedication page notes a second song, and I recommend that readers play this song immediately after reading the comic’s last panel. The song, “Cartoons and Macramé Wounds” by Mew, is a seven-minute ode to the sad whimsies of those who create worlds for other people. The song starts with a somewhat light melody that acknowledges good intentions—“You drew me cartoons / So playful”—and slowly evolves into a percussion-heavy, multi-voice climax that lasts for several minutes. The lyrics of the song’s last few minutes—“Drawn and held with you / This is what we do / We are leaving wounds”—suggest unresolved pain, and this is the same feeling that lingers after reading Snow Brigade.
Writer/Artist: Jonas McCluggage
[button btn_url="http://jonasgoonface.storenvy.com/products/16274613-snow-brigade" btn_color="green" btn_size="large" btn_style="default" btn_outlined="no" link_target="blank" link_rel="" icon_left="" icon_right=""]Website[/button]