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The Snowman. Written by Alfredo Castelli. Illustrated by Milo Manara. Translated by Stefano Gaudiano. New York: Catalan Communications, 1990. 48p. $9.95. ISBN 0-87416-124-X.

Science fiction

Adults, teens; adult-level philosophy

In 1921, a mountain-climbing party led by the British Colonel Howard-Bury attempts to scale Mt. Everest, but the native sherpas are frightened away by Metch Kangmi, the "Repugnant Snowman," and the climb fails. Back in London, the news is brought to reporter Tobey [the only name given as far as I could tell], who writes a sensational article that sneers at the existence of the creature, incidentally renaming the monster "Abominable Snowman." Some time later, an angry retired explorer takes Tobey to task for his skepticism. Intrigued, Tobey starts doing research on the creature and comes to believe that it might exist. When offered a chance to join another expedition up the slopes of Mt. Everest, he eagerly joins.

The expedition comes to a tragic end, however, when an avalanche tumbles down upon the party. Tobey escapes the worst of the avalanche but breaks his leg; and while lying there, he is confronted by a part of Metch Kangmi. Terrified, he shoots one in the head, then passes out. He wakens in a lamasery, being tended by Buddhist monks. As he recovers, he witnesses funeral rites for a monk who has a bullet hole in his head. As they cover the dead monk with gold and place him in a room filled with other preserved monks, Tobey sees one with his own face. The sight plunges him into nightmare.

When he awakens, he tells the monks what he saw, but they deny that anyone has died. Confused, Tobey demands to leave. However, every time he approaches the lamasery exit, he finds some reason to turn back. What is the mysterious hold that the monks and the lamasery have on Tobey, and how are they connected with the Metch Kangmi? (I bet you can guess.)

The name "Milo Manara" filled me with excitement when I discovered this book on a remainder shelf. I love his work! However, Snowman was a big disappointment in both art and story--possibly the latter unduly influenced the former. Most of the details of the story were predictable well in advance. The effect of the Metch Kangmi on Tibetians (both sherpas and bandits) is shown too many times. The story stops dead in places to expound upon Eastern mysticism, which is not my favorite subject to begin with. I got a feeling it wasn't Milo Manara's favorite, either; although the full-color art is certainly competent and beautiful, it seemed curiously lifeless compared to the work he did in such books as Dies Irae and An Author in Search of Six Characters. Of course, he was illustrating his own stories in those books. Still, his few pages in Breakthrough had more life in them than in the entire Snowman. Finally, some of the lettering (especially that in the funeral and nightmare sequences) is extremely hard to read.

This book would be a very minor part of a general collection of European graphic novels. Its audience primarily consists of Manara completists and devotees of Eastern philosophy.


Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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