Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: INJ Culbard
Release Date: 27th January, 2016
After a somewhat sedate pace early on, it’s safe to say that business has picked up in a major way in Abnett and Culbard’s Wilds End: The Enemy Within. In this latest issue, the anthropomorphic animal residents of Little Crowchurch remain separated as the sheer scale of the impending (or, “in progress” I guess) alien invasion becomes apparent.
Fawkes and Alph command the lion’s share of the page count here, as they – along with gruff soldier “Goggles” – continue to fight for their lives against one of the deadly Victorian lamp-esque aliens. The relationship between these two characters has gradually become my personal highlight of the entire series, with sleazy poacher Fawkes filling almost a father role to the wide-eyed, naive Alphie. Abnett’s strong characterisation and note-perfect regional dialect gives their exchanges a real sense of charm, as well adding a huge amount of emotion to the events of this issue.
As I’ve said before, it’s the gradual character development that really pays off in this series, with Abnett and Culbard providing a sense of humanity and depth that belies the “talking animal” aesthetic, making it feel like we’ve known these characters for a hell of a lot longer than a mere eleven issues.
One thing I haven’t touched upon much in my previous reviews is the wonderful ‘bonus material’ that Abnett includes with every issue. Too busy gushing about the main story, I guess. While the standard has been consistently high thus far with newspaper articles, diaries and the like, in this particular issue it works even better, taking the form of Susan Peardew’s journal as she seeks outside assistance along with Mr Minks. With both characters absent from the main story here, this adds some much-needed additional flavor to the issue, allowing us to check in with two of our heroes without having to sacrifice or distract from the main narrative. Terrific stuff.
From a visual point of view, if my previous rants about just how stunningly talented INJ Culbard is hasn’t got you on board yet, then I don’t think anything will. Raving about the “beautiful simplicity” of his artwork almost feels like damning with faint praise, but once again it’s his crisp, minimalist style that really pushes this series to a whole new level. From whispered conversations in the pale blue of the moonlight to the aliens and their frenzied blasts of orange and red, Culbard’s use of colour is truly fantastic, managing to convey a tremendous amount of depth while still retaining his trademark ‘flat’ style.
Alright, so if you haven’t picked this one up yet, then this is most definitely not the place to start, but those of us who have been following this series – and the previous series, for that matter – are in for an absolute treat with this penultimate chapter. Tensions are heightened, battle lines are drawn and hearts are broken. Wild’s End remains one of the most consistently gripping titles on the shelves today, with an inspired twist on worn-out “alien invasion” tropes and some of the best use of phrases like “Gord ‘elp us!” that you’re ever likely to see.
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