I only really know Chuck Dixon as one of the leanest, most efficient Batman writers of the 1990s, a man who did exceptionally good work establishing Robin as an interesting superhero separated from Batman, and as a guy who could write a pretty mean Punisher tale. I don't know Chuck Dixon as the guy who (as he says) watched his conservative personal politics close doors on his own career; the right-wing guy with opinions on how liberalism has eroded the modern superhero. I also did not know, until after reading Winterworld #1, that the job that helped put him Dixon the map was a creator-owned post-apocalyptic survival story set on a frozen Earth.
This new Winterworld series from IDW (drawn by Jackson "Butch" Guice) didn't require a lot of backstory, but it ended up being good enough to make me want to seek out the previous stuff (published by Eclipse in 1987 and collected by IDW in 2011). Winterworld predates Cormac McCarthy's The Road by a couple of decades, but shares the central conceit of an adult and a pre-teen scavenging for no greater reason than to stay alive, in the face of unspeakably harsh conditions and humans-turned-savage. In this new #1, Dixon shows a lot of affection for his leads, pragmatist Scully and upbeat teenager Wynn, and though very little backstory is given, they emerge fully-formed from Dixon's own head as relatable, appealing characters thrown against impossible odds (always a winning formula).
The harsh arctic landscape is a welcome change from the typical barren deserts we're used to in post-apoc tales, which was probably what inspired Dixon to create the series in the first place (especially in the wake of the worldwide post-Mad Max mania of the 1980's and its fixation with nuclear "scorched Earth" aesthetics). Butch Guice is an inspired choice as Dixon's dance partner on the book. He's one of those artists that can make pretty much any situation feel like a hand-drawn document of reality and less like a comic book fantasy. For Winterworld, this means that you buy all of it -- from the setting to the characters who inhabit that setting -- as plausible.
Dixon must realize that he comes to the work with a certain amount of political baggage and he tries to shed it during the first issue's letter column, "I don't write my personal politics into my stories for the simple reason that I want to keep the work universal. The object is to entertain readers, not try and change their minds." A knee jerk response would automatically think Dixon is using Winterworld to dispute global warming, but the contents of the story seem to say otherwise. Dixon addresses global warming without any apparent agenda other than using it as fodder for an interesting, not-quite-sci-fi story.
The timing of Winterworld #1 is unfortunate, since Dixon was somewhat vilified last week for his Wall Street Journal piece on what he perceives to be a decline in conservative values within mainstream superhero books, but don't let that column get in the way of a book you might enjoy. Winterworld #1 is attractive, muscular pulp that makes a strong first impression, even amidst a sea of comics about the end of the world as we know it.
Winterworld #1 hits stands Wednesday, June 18. The Amazon link below is for the original 1987 Winterworld collection, containing #1-3 of the original Eclipse series as well as two issues of its unpublished sequel, Wintersea.