The Webcomics Weekly #217: Frost Begets Frost Begets Frost (1/24/2023 Edition)

By | January 24th, 2023
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

The Webcomics Weekly is back in your life and so is our coverage of “Dr. Frost.” Mainstays of the column might recognize my reviews of the webtoon and have been dying to know what I thought about the latest, and greatest, arc of the comic. Well, you’ll have to read on to find out! (Spoilers: it’s really freaking good.)

Dr. Frost
Updates: Saturdays
By Jongbeom Lee
Reviewed by Elias Rosner

Can you believe it’s been nearly half a year since I last took a look at “Dr. Frost?” The comic had just begun what has proven to be its longest, and meatiest, arc of season 4 and the series as a whole. To say I wasn’t prepared for what we were going to get is an understatement of epic proportions. This arc has a lot to say, covers a lot of heavy topics, and gives us one hell of a backstory for one Seonghyun Moon.

‘Ouroboros’ is actually split into two pretty distinct halves. The second half is the aforementioned backstory, told entirely through a dramatized flashback, while the first half is the set-up for the discovery of said backstory as well as a partial resolution to what happened to Jiseong Gwak. Jiseong, if you don’t remember, was Seonga’s patient from Juvenile Detention who ended up carrying out an anti-immigrant attack on Manny’s brother, radicalized by, we believe, Moon’s current group.

What we don’t get, however, is that story. Despite being primed two or three times to receive the full story of what brought Jiseong to carry out the attack, of what made him hate so much, we get instead a portrait of a kid, now just barely an adult, trying to escape the shadow of his past actions. He’s being discriminated against in small and large ways due to his record but that’s really secondary, for now, to his quest to apologize to everyone he’s hurt. As Lee shows us though, that’s easier said than done.

Rejecting the easy answers Lee seemed to be setting up at the start of the arc, the chapters of ‘Ouroboros’ that focuses on Jiseong instead portray the ethical dilemmas of making amends. Who does an apology serve? Can one do more harm in trying to apologize? Does everyone deserve an apology? Is it self-serving to apologize and is that OK? To all, the answers are as varied and nuanced as the people involved because it is important for Jiseong to apologize so he can move on and for some, the gesture is appreciated. For others, it is an excuse to perpetuate the cycle of violence and for still others, it is retraumatizing and actively unsettling to have someone track them down after so many years. And then there’s the question of “who determines when you’ve finished” and how, when that question transcends the interpersonal into the realm of the societal, things escalate quickly.

It’s a brilliant way of digging into the central themes of season 4 as a whole without cheapening the drama we’ve seen up to this point. It also starts to reveal how the arc’s title applies to Jiseong. We’ve yet to fully connect the dots but Lee’s a good enough storyteller that we don’t need all the details to see the shape of things. What I most appreciate about this, too, is Lee’s sympathetic but critical eye for Jiseong. He’s not out to absolve the character because “he has a good heart” or is sad. Instead we’re asked to view his humanity without sidelining Manny’s pain and recognize how we are shaped by the same forces that shaped him.

And how they also shaped our ultimate antagonist: Seonghyun Moon.

Moon’s backstory takes up the actual bulk of the arc – I said it was the “second half” but it really is more like 3/4ths – but I don’t actually want to dwell too much on it here. Not that there wasn’t a lot to talk about. Quite the opposite really. I was absolutely enthralled by what we learned about Moon’s past as well as the potential reveal(!) of Frost’s early connection to him.

In fact, I was so engrossed in the story that I nearly missed an early flub on the translator’s part of the cult he was a part of – they put in Heaven’s Gate (the real cult) instead of Paradise’s Gate (the fake cult.) I think the story works best when you go in with little pre-knowledge besides knowing that it does for Moon what was done for Jiseong, only with the obviously dark ending we know is coming. It’s the making of a monster, after all. Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk a little about Lee’s choice to set Moon’s pivotal backstory in a cult.

Continued below

All season long we’ve been skirting around this topic with organizations and groups that are cult-like but not quite full-on cults. He’s made the parallels between online radicalization against marginalized groups (immigrants, the elderly) and cult behaviors. Paradise’s Gate, however, is the first honest-to-goodness cult we’ve dealt with. It’s one in the mold of many currently active “religions” in South Korea and Lee has no chill when it comes to repudiating them right from the get-go.

And yet, Lee creates compelling and sympathetic characters while painting a portrait of the kinds of people who join said cults. He dives into what positive psychological phenomenon cults use and allows us to ask whether there was a different way to achieve the same outcome, one with far less damage done to those it purported to help. Lee has no patience for the grifters but even less patience, and in fact, a stern warning, about the ambitious and the power hungry.

It’s truly compelling stuff, even taken out of the context of “Dr. Frost,” reminding me why this series remains a must-read for me and why it should remain one for you too.

//TAGS | Webcomics

Elias Rosner

Elias is a lover of stories who, when he isn't writing reviews for Mulitversity, is hiding in the stacks of his library. Co-host of Make Mine Multiversity, a Marvel podcast, after winning the no-prize from the former hosts, co-editor of The Webcomics Weekly, and writer of the Worthy column, he can be found on Twitter (for mostly comics stuff) here and has finally updated his profile photo again.


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