Ceej Says… Horizon book 1 & 2 review
Publisher: Paper Theatre
Writer/Artist: Andrew Wildman
Horizon is a project fifteen years in the making from renowned Transformers artist Andrew Wildman. Based on some of his own past experiences searching for answers to questions like ‘why is life like this?’ and – more importantly – ‘how can I make it better?‘, it serves as a poignant tale of love and loss which may come as a surprise to some people considering that Wildman has built much of his career success to this point by drawing giant fighting robots.
The book is told from the perspective of fifteen year old Alisanne, a fairly unremarkable girl (from outward appearances at least) struggling with life, school, and the loss of the one person she loves most in the world, her father. We flick back and forth between witnessing Ali’s real life struggles as she keeps her head down in the hopes of getting through another day day without ‘making things worse’ and her experiences in the dream-like world of Horizon, where her problems take on a more intriguing, metaphorical slant.
For someone who readily admits to being an ‘artist’ as opposed to a ‘writer’, Wildman has constructed a story here with a significant amount of emotional punch. Staying on just the right side of ‘after school special’ melodrama, he instantly makes us connect with Ali and her all-too-familiar struggles at school and in her own head. This isn’t a girl who craves acceptance or popularity, she simply wants a quiet life, and as such, is no-doubt instantly relatable to a great many of us.
The artwork is particularly strong, as Wildman’s rich black and white style shows an impressive command of scale and anatomy, particularly in creating the crumbling, always-shifting world of Horizon. His artistic credentials were never really in question, but this book shows a finely honed gift for displaying emotion on facial expressions, something that clearly doesn’t come into play quite as much with his Transformers work.
The book is frequently punctuated by what appear to be handwritten words, presumably from Ali herself (although Wildman confirms that this device will be fully explained in the final book, tying the whole story together), which echo the emotions she’s experiencing. It’s a difficult concept to describe, but it works extremely well to add further emphasis to the story, and seeing words like “lost”, “coming apart” and – all too frequently – “falling”, appearing as they mirror Ali’s experiences provides an additional level of emotional depth to the proceedings.
I’m reviewing both of the first two books together here, but I think it’s vitally important for me not to spoil anything for risk of diminishing the experience to a new reader, so I’m going to stay clear of any major storyline details. Suffice to say though that fans of Wildman’s work on giant robots won’t be entirely disappointed.
Book one sets the scene, introducing us to Ali and showing us her first tentative steps into the world of Horizon. We are also introduced to her companion and guide on this journey, Moon, who serves as both an outside force urging her onwards and as an echoing of her own inner thoughts, doubts and determination. The second book delves a little deeper into Ali’s relationship with her departed father, as well as showing her finally coming face to face with the fear she has let dictate her life to this point, in a an emphatically visual way.
This book resonated with me rather deeply, just as I’m sure it will with a lot of other readers. The wisdom imparted by Moon, much of it clearly gleamed from the author’s own experiences, is almost universal in its relevance, and I found myself urging Ali more and more to heed that advice as I kept reading. The third and final volume should hopefully be available next year, and I honestly can’t wait to see how this story resolves itself, as well as how Ali’s experiences in Horizon effect her ongoing life in the real world.
A terrific piece of work, and one that seems to clearly be a labour of love for Wildman, Horizon is a world everyone would do well to visit at least once.
The first two volumes are currently available on the Horizon Graphic Novel webshop, and details concerning the release of the third volume will be posted on the website when they are available.
You can also follow the creator on Twitter.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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