Friday, September 12, 2014
"It weren't no shootin' star. It were a fallin' star."
A rabbit stands in a bar and holds a town meeting. The other citizens are paying attention to him, respecting his wishes. He's then interrupted by a drunk fox. Sounds like the start of a bad joke. Or it's part of a new series from BOOM! Studios starting with Wild's End #1, written by Dan Abnett and illustrated/lettered by I.N.J. Culbard.
On a seemingly calm night out in a rural English community in the 1930s, Fawkesie and Bodie are enjoying libations. That is, until they see a rather bright object hurtle through the sky before crashing. It's a dark spot in the plans of Gilbert Arrant and Peter Minks to throw the annual party that celebrates the town. Now the town is the victim of an alien invasion and the residents’ lives are upended by the harsh realities of life-and-death violence. Led by the town’s outsider Mr. Slipaway (a retired war veteran), they will have to rally together to uncover the secret of their invaders and ultimately fight back.
Abnett's getting a lot of buzz recently on the backs of the massive success of Guardians of the Galaxy, but he's definitely worked on a lot of other stories, most of which feature some intergalactic element. In that regard, Wild's End #1 feels sufficiently cosmic, as there's an alien invasion upending the status quo for the residents of Hightop Wood. What makes the book stand out though is Abnett's use of animals as the characters. The book would've felt pretty boring it featured humans in pretty standard roles, so it's a nice change that the characters are actually anthropomorphized animals. And any time you can feature a drunk fox as the harbinger of bad news, all the better. The dialogue feels pretty quick and moves the story along briskly, ultimately positioning the series as an "us vs. them" book that feels inspired by recent works such as The World's End.
Culbard does some pretty nifty things with the art that makes Wild's End #1 work. Pages evidence a glow that reflects the time of day as well as some of the characters on the page. For instance, night scenes rely on dark blues, while day scenes rely on vibrant greens. There's a couple of pages featuring one of the town's residents who's a pig that's awash in pink, but also serves as a notice that the sun is setting on the day. The animals feature bold outlines that reflect a very clean and concise imagery depicting the previously idyllic town's routine being interrupted. The style just feels fresh and rather elegantly conveys the increase in action in Hightop Wood.
Wild's End #1 is a fascinating book, largely because of the characters involved. The core story is very familiar in terms of an alien invasion, but there are some new twists in here that keeps things from feeling too stale. Abnett has a talent for churning out interesting cosmic stories and it remains to be seen how much interaction the characters will have with the alien visitors. Culbard's panel layouts are very tidy and reflect an equal level of routine that the characters of Hightop Wood expect from their sleepy hamlet on a daily basis. Wild's End #1 doesn't really fall into any specific category and is a new book to add to your list if you're looking for something a little different.
Wild's End #1 is in stores now with interiors below.