Released last week by US publisher BOOM! Studios, Wild’s End #1, written by Dan Abnett with art and lettering by INJ Culbard, is gathering plenty of critical acclaim, and I hope it’s resulting in strong sales for this enjoyable anthropomorphic tale melding Wind in the Willows with War of the Worlds.
When a rural English community of the 1930s is the victim of an alien invasion, the residents’ lives are upended by the harsh realities of life-and-death violence. Led by the town’s outsider and retired war veteran, they will have to rally together to uncover the secret of their invaders and ultimately fight back.
“We love smart takes on classic science-fiction mythos and who better to take advantage of the iconography of H.G. Wells and War of the Worlds than Dan Abnett,” say BOOM! in their promotion for the comic, “one of comics’ most renowned sci-fi writers and one of creators responsible for the groundbreaking run on Guardians of the Galaxy that inspired the upcoming Marvel movie. Paired with INJ Culbard who has made a name for himself with the critically acclaimed adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, it’s a team perfectly built for the visually impactful adventure stories readers love.”
This first issue is a slow build with lots of portents of awful things to come, introducing, with consummate skill, the cast of the mini series including Upper Crowchurch newcomer Clive Slipaway, the quiet, ex-Navy veteran with the suggestion that the action he’s seen still haunts him; devious local lawyer Gilbert Arrant,; reporter Peter Minks; and the ne’er do-well character Fawkes.
“When I see Dan Abnett and Ian Culbard’s names on a new comic, frankly even before I know what it is about, that’s sufficient to make me want to take a look,” enthuses Joe Gordon over on the Forbidden Planet blog. “Add in the fact that we have an anthropomorphic fantasy take on one of the first great classics of science fiction… (with a touch of the Archers thrown in for good measure) and you have my undivided reading attention!
“…This is a charming piece of work, a sort of blending of Wind in the Willows with HG Wells, and I found the idyllic, rural setting was enhanced by having anthropomorphic animal-people as the characters,” he adds, “… Naturally they bring to mind other prominent anthropomorphic characters, such as Bryan Talbot’s Grandville cast, but these creations stand on their own and any comparisons I might make from Wild’s End to Grandville are entirely complimentary. That so much of their character comes through simply from the art is a testament to Culbard’s ability.”
“Abnett’s script shines in the small moments, such as Clive’s pauses in his replies to Gilbert regarding participating in the annual fete,” notes Jennifer Cheng in her review on Comic Book Resources. “The pacing is subtle and perfect there, getting across the Gilbert’s pushy tactics and his obliviousness to Clive’s discomfort.
“Culbard’s art is also skillful with subtleties of body language and facial expressions,” she adds. “His character design is excellent, particularly with the wardrobe choices. His confident unshaded linework pairs well with his palette of pastels and neutrals. The effect is cheerful and upbeat, but Culbard succeeds at creating a feeling of unease that rises steadily.”
I definitely think this is a mini series you should check out: it’s on sale now in all good UK comic shops. Here’s some preview pages…