Tuesday 6 November 2018

You Should Be Reading...Wild's End

Yes, it's another installment of our occasional jaunt through the world of graphic novels! Our subject for this article is a book I finished recently by one of my favourite authors, which certainly didn't disappoint, and I wanted to share with anyone who would listen. It's a bit of a mash-up of styles, with anthropomorphic animals, an early 1900's setting, and alien invaders, but sumptuous artwork and a gripping story bring it all together beautifully into a three-book odyssey unlike anything else you will read!

From First Light to Journey's End, welcome to Wild's End.

Regular collaborators Dan Abnett and Ian (INJ) Culbard have given us some of the best "alternative" comics of recent years; The New Deadwardians, Brink, and Dark Ages should be on everyone's required reading list. For me, Wild's End is their best story to date. I picked up a few issues of the comic in 2014 at the now sadly defunct Demoncon in Maidstone, where I met Dan and discovered his world of comics beyond 2000AD. These were released as the first GN First Light in 2015, closely followed by the second comic run, which was collected in book 2 The Enemy Within a year later. However it wasn't until September of this year that book 3 Journey's End was finally issued to complete the trilogy! Why the gap with no comics release is a bit of a mystery, but it was well worth the wait.

Wild's End is set in rural "England" in an unspecified year (Technology levels would indicate 1920's-30's). The anthropomorphic inhabitants of the village of Lower Crowchurch and its environs are going about their daily lives when, unseen by most, something falls from the sky and crash lands in the woods. Two local drunks /poachers follow the fire in the sky to the landing site, but only one returns! No-one believes his story at first, but when residents in outlying houses are attacked by a glass-domed and steel-tentacled alien machine, things very quickly begin to escalate. We follow a group of frightened but intrepid characters as they investigate, track and confront the alien menace which has appeared amongst them.

What I like most about Dan Abnett's writing is the accessibility of his characters, and this story is no exception. Aided very cleverly by the book's anthropomorphic style, you quickly get a handle on each character as it enters the story, and watch them develop as it progresses. But beware of getting attached to anybody... Mr. Abnett is not afraid to kill any of his creations! This genuine threat gives the story it's edge, and creates a great deal of tension for the reader. In between each chapter (of all three books) there are text pieces related to the main plot, diary entries, military log books, newspaper articles etc. which further enhance the world building development present throughout it. There are also several themes running in the background, including class prejudice and the ignorance of military dogma, which add another layer to an already packed tale, and leave you with a truly rewarding read!

A graphic novel can only work if the art matches up with the story, and Ian Culbard is one of the most talented and capable artists around! Like all the best artwork, the pacing and layout work in perfect synergy with the writing, enhancing the storyline and building the world and characters perfectly. It may seem an odd concept, given we are dealing with anthro animals, but this brings a huge slice of realism and believability to this world!

The long term partnership between these two modern comics masters can only be a good thing, long may it continue! This is my favourite of their output so far, certainly as good as the excellent Brink (currently running in 2000AD), and you should definitely be reading it!

Watch the skies...

By day, David Mustill is a Human Workhorse for a chemical company. Naturally, every possible moment away from this existence is spent gaming and painting miniatures.

A steady diet of rock, metal, punk, comics, gaming, miniatures and genre movies has moulded David into a renaissance geek, for whom no gaming company or genre is too obscure, and no graphic novel is unreadable.

He is currently the Chairman of Milton Hundred Wargames Club, which affords him the privilege of running the Broadside Games Show. He will not let you down. Unless you're after selfies. He is rubbish at selfies...

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