Ashes choke the sky and devastation is everywhere in the charred, smouldering heap that once was Los Angeles. Despite the best efforts of the populace and emergency services, the fires that consume the City of Angels show no sign of stopping or being contained in the first part of Matt Hawkins and Linda Sejic’s sci-fi disaster story.
After the striking opening of a devastated Los Angeles Wildfire then flashes back to a heated TV debate about GM foods that spirals into a vicious slanging match within about four panels. With hair-trigger tempers and a tendency to point accusingly at each other, both sides of the argument come across more like angry drunks than reasoned scientists. Rather than placing the argument in a morally grey area it lumps both camps firmly into the same category of unlikable science zealots banging on righteously about their beliefs.
With dialogue largely made up of sci-fi technobabble as people talk in labs or make powerpoint presentations this is a very wordy comic, where people explain the science and theory behind their experiments. It’s a bit much and it slows down the story for large stretches while characters postulate on the scientific ramifications for page after page. There’s the seed of a good idea in there, it’s just ponderously developed; ironic in a story about accelerated plant growth.
The artwork is a mixed bag. Sejic is capable of some truly stunning pages of wide-scale devastation and chaos but struggles in the smaller more intimate sequences of people talking in rooms; a bit of a problem when so much of this book is wordy exposition. Panels of characters talking in TV studios, auditoriums and labs have an airless, plastic quality that brings to mind the shiny CGI 90s animation of Reboot or The Phantom Menace. No matter how hard Sejic tries to bring some dynamism and energy to proceedings, through erratically shaped panels and jagged framing, things still seem slightly stiff and mannered.
Despite a solid core idea, Wildfire #1 could do with a bit of pruning to make it a bit more economical in its execution; the movie rule of “show don’t tell” works just as well in comics too. Hopefully with the central premise now established issue two can grow into something more dynamic before this story dies on the vine.
The writer of this piece was: Joe Morrison
Joe is Freelance film journalist based in Glasgow.
You can also find Joe on Twitter.