Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: I.N.J. Culbard
Release Date: 24th February 2016
And so we reach the final chapter of “The Enemy Within”, the second volume of Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard’s Wild’s End series. With Susan Peardew and Mister Minks finally on the verge of exposing the alien invasion to the general public, Clive finds himself reliving some of his past trauma as the assembled might of the military proves to be no match for the menacing, lamp-esque invaders.
As I’ve said before countless times, there’s just something about the juxtaposition between anthropomorphic animals and classic W.G. Wells-esque science fiction that flat-out works for me, and Abnett’s powerful characterisation of his ensemble cast has allowed the reader to form some deep connections over the last two arcs. It’s perhaps a curious comparison to make, but to me, the style employed here is somewhat reminiscent of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, with a cast of truly relatable characters struggling their way through an awful situation where – tragically – death is always right around the corner. Only, y’know, the characters here are talking animals.
The tension is ramped up to a fever pitch here as the survivors make their last, desperate stand, and once again we have the fragility of life hammered home to us during several truly shocking sequences. Whereas previously the deaths of characters have been handled in a somewhat discreet – thought no less upsetting – manner, this final issue sees Culbard grab us by the throat and force us to look the true horror of the alien invasion right in the face, with shockingly uncomfortable results.
As always, Culbard’s work is of the highest standard here, conducting yet another masterclass in getting the most out of every single line. While it may not be the most detailed approach, the subtle expressions of the characters and the gorgeously rendered colours give his work a truly distinctive aesthetic, and – as I mentioned above – he certainly doesn’t shy away from the more difficult emotional scenes, attacking them with a reverence that belies the fact that, once again, we’re effectively dealing with bulldogs, cats and squirrels fighting alien lampposts here.
Again, it’s worth tipping the proverbial hat to Nik Abnett’s fantastic “bonus material”, which this time consists of transcribed statements from several of the key characters – some of which have an added layer of poignancy due to them effectively serving as these character’s final words. Sniff. While it’s often easy to gloss over this kind of extra material as pointless self-indulgence on the part of the creators, Nik’s work has been absolutely stellar throughout, adding extra storytelling nuance to the series without having to compromise the flow of the overall narrative.
For all the pulse-pounding drama and frenetic action in this final issue, Abnett and Culbard save their masterstroke for the final few pages, unleashing an absolutely chilling text-free double-page splash that had my jaw on the floor and the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. The terrifying implications of these pages cannot be understated, and if there’s any justice in the world, this single moment will be fleshed out and expanded upon in the next Wild’s End series (please dear God let there be a next Wild’s End series).
In summary, while this could potentially be an easy series to overlook with its fluffy, all-ages appearance and ‘out-there’ concept, I often find that a simple equation works best in these kind of occasions; Abnett + Culbard = awesome. Whether it’s Dark Ages, The New Deadwardians or either of their Wild’s End stories, this is a creative team which brings out the absolute best in one another, and this series is a glowing testament to the devastating effect of their unconventional ‘mash up’ approach. Featuring gripping plot twists and utterly engaging characters, The Wild’s End: The Enemy Within is a truly accomplished series that deserves to be seen by as many wide, appreciative eyes as possible.
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