Publisher: Paper Theatre
Writer/Artist: Andrew Wildman
Horizon is a project fifteen years in the making from renowned Transformers artist Andrew Wildman. I originally reviewed the first two chapters back at the beginning of 2014, and with the collected volume of all three chapters now available, I thought it would be a perfect time to revisit that review and share my thoughts on the series as a whole.
The book is based on some of Wildman’s own past experiences searching for answers to questions such as “why is life like this?” and – more importantly – “how can I make it better?” It serves as a poignant tale of love and loss, something which may come as a surprise to many readers, especially considering the fact 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) who is struggling with life, school, and the loss of the one person she loved most in the world, her father. We flick back and forth between Ali’s real life struggles as she keeps her head down in the hopes of getting through another 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 with a significant amount of emotional punch. Staying on just the right side of ‘after school special’ melodrama, he instantly allows us to connect with Ali and her all-too-familiar struggles, both 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 displays an impressive command of scale and anatomy, particularly in the creation of the crumbling, always-shifting world of Horizon. True, his artistic credentials were never really in question, but this book shows a finely honed gift for displaying emotion on facial expressions, something that certainly doesn’t come into play quite so much with his Transformers work.
The book is frequently punctuated by what appear to be handwritten words, presumably from Ali herself. 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. As an added bonus, the true meaning of the words are explained fully in the third act, giving the book a while new perspective and prompting an almost mandatory second reading in the process.
I’m trying to say as much as I can here, but I also 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 – ultimately – 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. The third book sees the confrontation with this fear play out in a visceral, physical fashion, as well as filling in some of the ‘blanks’ and providing an emotional gut-punch of a denouement.
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 read. An emotional, emotive and utterly unique piece of work, not to mention one that seems to clearly be a labour of love for Wildman, Horizon is a world that everyone should visit at least once.
The collected and complete book of HORIZON is available from the official webshop.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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