Review by Luke Williams
By Dan Abnett & I.N.J Culbard
(Additional material from Nik Abnett)
Published by Boom! Studios, Wild’s End is best summed up by the artist of the series Ian Culbard, who describes it as an anthropomorphic mash up of War of The Worlds and Wind In the Willows. Written by Culbard’s regular creative partner Dan Abnett, it’s a period alien invasion story where the main characters are animals, told over two mini series (collected as two trade paperbacks) and a one shot trade paperback.
In Book One, First Light, local ne’er do wells Fawkes and Bodie spot mysterious lights in the sky around the Edwardian era village of Lower Crowchurch. A mysterious meteorite lands near the village, and, seeing a potential financial opportunity, Fawkes and his accomplice Bodie investigate. Bodie is incinerated by the occupants of the “meteorite”, leaving a fleeing Fawkes to rave to disbelieving villagers.
Fawkes warnings begin to bear fruit, as the members of the Beatrix Potter alike cast of villagers are burned to a crisp, but are explained away as a series of mysterious fires.
Some of the local residents begin to have doubts. Solemn former seamen Clive Slipaway marshals some of the local residents, including affable journalist Peter Minks, youngster Alph Swagger, flaky writer Susan Purdew, but not without cost .
By the end of Book One, it’s clear that this is a full scale invasion of the Earth by an aggressive and ruthless alien civilisation. Book Two, The Enemy Within, sees the British government taking steps to address the growing threat with our plucky band caught in the middle.
Finally, in Book Three, Journey’s End, the situation looks increasingly desperate. Our heroes are combating the unhinged commander of the local government forces and the crushing technological superiority and ruthlessness of the invaders, with only the slimmest of chance of survival.
The three books are excellently constructed. The tropes of animals reflecting their character traits they are most associated with works well here. The characters are likeable well formed, and the reader forms a strong emotional attachment as the cast bicker as they struggle against seemingly overwhelming odds.
The clanking, streetlamp alike alien invaders make sporadic appearances, and in the best tradition of stories of this nature prove more of a threat due to their absence. Setting this conflict against the bucolic English countryside only amplifies the horror – and, be warned, this can get quite grisly. Deaths are sudden, graphic and brutal, made all the more horrific by the faceless indifference of the invaders.
Abnett and Culbard have worked extensively together, partnering up on the highly acclaimed slow burn dystopian cop procedural Brink, the criminally overlooked period vampire Vertigo series New Deadwardians and medieval sci-fi in Dark Ages, published by Dark Horse. They clearly like working together and the results are always worthy of your time and money.
Ian Culbard’s flat European style art is sparse on detail and an acquired taste, but conveys the emotions of the characters and the brutality of the fight against the aliens brilliantly; page composition and camera work paces the story and evokes the feeling of tension wonderfully. Abnett has become 2000AD’s new Wagner and Grant, with his prodigious quality of output – and Wild’s End only reinforces that reputation.
Each collection comes with text pieces or extra material fleshing out the world and the characters, giving useful background that would otherwise be filled out in extensive exposition.
The complete strip cries out to be collected under one cover, preferably a fancy slipcase hardcover, with a nice books ribbon in each volume for us book fetishists.
Heartily recommended, an overlooked gem.
• Wild’s End First Light, The Enemy Within and Journey’s End are available from all good book shops
Wild’s End © Dan Abnett & I.N.J Culbard