In 1976, John Carpenter originally wrote the screenplay for Escape From New York in reaction to the Watergate scandal. He believed there was this “whole feeling of the nation was one of real cynicism against the President,” and sought to write a film that could encapsulate that feeling of loss, confusion, aggression, and hope for the trodden upon Americans to actually save the day (even if they are “criminals” in a broken world that they are actively trying to fix which might mean stealing evidence from the Federal Reserve, sorry not sorry). Writer of this new series, Chris Sebela, admits to being a lifelong Carpenter junkie, but, I can’t help but see the timing of this series to be a great time to expose some current and similar feelings of angst rippling through our country within this work, especially if we have the no-bullshit Snake on our side. While I’m at it, aside from expunging America’s hate, could we get Jamie Lee Curtis to record an audio version of this tale too? Hey! A girl can dream as she plummets through these tightly-woven, action-packed panels with Snake Plissken by her side. “Escape From New York #1” is as Matt Fraction says, “the spiritual alignment” of the film.
Written by Christopher Sebela
Art by Diego Barreto
Snake Plissken has just single-handly not stopped WWIII from happening. He has just ripped up the tape that possibly could save the rest of the world, and maybe unite the 49 states where crime is up 400% nationally. He just saved the President of the US, but mostly, because he needed to save himself. What the hell else is he going to do now? And who, really, is going to stop him?
“Escape From New York” jumpstarts from the last scene of the cult-classic film, and holds no mercy for the reader’s lapse in time. Sebela is not concerned with readers catching their breath, and is not concerned with anything that ever happened in L.A, but is completely consumed by all the possibilities that Snake has from that film’s last moment and the wreckage that is the other 49 states of the union when crime rates rise 400% nationally.
The opening of “Escape From New York” is cleverly done, though it might give a little whiplash. Sebela starts the series at the exact moment that the film ends, causing cult fans to swoon as we return to the iconic moment of Snake walking off the TV set as some “Boogie” music plays and the President is left speechless. The panel close-up of the cassette tape being ripped apart in his hands is a pretty iconic moment to start on, and from there, Sebela wastes no time in letting Snake live on from this film, escaping the clutches of the special forces again with the jarring, acute eye of Barreto’s minutia-filled panels whipping us from a car, to aircrafts, then back on the road as Snake hitchhikes a ride out of the way. As the car travels we hear news reports trying to make sense of the very move we just saw Snake pull with the tape and see a split-second of two old men discussing its meaning, and suddenly, subtly, Sebela has lifted Snake and us from the past and brought us into the aftermath of Snake’s moves. Up until that point the coloring by Louise is bleak, tinged with gray, and begging for more explosives to be thrown at it. As soon as Snake hits the open road, however, the colors warm, the shadows darken, and the reader feels the potential life and depth of Snake outside the constraints of the old film’s chase. Sebela, Barreto, and Louise have weaved a great getaway from all that was the film.
The pacing does not slow down, as much as readers might be curious to connect with Snake more, we are not allowed that. This starter-tale is not ready to give us Snake yet. We are left to judge him solely by his actions, and to hang onto what minimal words Sebela grants him through his gun-slinging, cigar-toking ways. I admit frustration at that, but only because like Snake, I’m tired of his character jumping from mission to mission like a pawn. However, the writing cleverly confront this idea too, as others repeatedly ask Snake, “I thought you were dead,” and him answering, “I get that a lot.” Or, “America wants you dead, Snake.” And his response to rally brute force, “Let’s get this over with.” The immediacy of control and assertive action within this issue is its strongest addition to the series. Sebela side-steps (though I hope it’s not for too long) any need to connect us to Snake further, or give any internal monologue, in a very Carpenter-like way, and throws us into more conflict and missions to face with Snake as that is what his life is currently. A chase. A game. There isn’t any other way for Snake.Continued below
Choosing to take us from Snake’s breakout from secret service custody, to a long car-ride at night with citizens of this country makes the start of this tale one that is sure to lend us more of the landscape of this world than just the insight into who and how bad is Snake. In the following escape scene, Sebela puts Snake into a beat up truck with other citizens looking for salvation in the “toilet” that is Florida and seeking to meet the honored Twins, that is, if they can survive the “Crucible” test that lets them pass through to Free Florida. The Twins are supposed to be the saviors. The twins have crazy supernatural powers, or so we hear. The situation still seems bleak, impossible, and bloody, and Snake, drawn with a wry smirk that could melt glass back to sand, decides to join his new found ride on this trek. This jumping start to yet another mission was another smart choice on Sebela’s part as it allows us to vicariously move with Snake and see what a “free” state in this kind of nation looks like, to wonder what kind of test is the Crucible and what does this test say about the world we’re about to watch Snake face? Much of this tale is told in small-talk, in the description of the land that is Florida. Through this silent, passive kind of role, Barreto draws a jaded, rugged, Snake, adding up certain figures in his head about that state of his country, though we’re not privileged to hear just yet, but can discern are coming, and soon, and probably mercilessly. We might have to agree that most of his words will be bullet-shaped, but that’s a suggestion that Snake probably made to Sebela personally.
At this point in the tale, Snake is the most wanted man in the US, and armed with a shotgun and we honestly don’t know what could stop him, and like Carpenter imagined in the film version of Snake, we honestly cannot say that we want him to be stopped. Staying true to the morally chaotic-good that is Snake we see him in this tale fight for what is against “just” behavior and for what is “just” behavior without any honor to its standards at all. I will say this though, if each mission becomes too easy for Snake to solve then sooner, rather than later, Sebela needs to confront the mission of Snake dealing with himself and all he’s done (especially with yanno not stopping WW III).
Final Verdict: 8.0 – a cult-classic favorite reawakened to stir up more trouble without anyone’s permission; full-throttle fun with just the right amount of exhaust fumes and bullet shells to play in while smiling like yes, indeed, you do not have any idea of what kind of payback is coming, and no, you probably cannot afford it, but probably do deserve it