Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Dan Abnett
Artwork: I.N.J. Culbard
Release Date: 27th June 2018
After an excruciatingly long wait, Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard’s Wild’s End reaches its conclusion this week with the final arc of the story being released as an original graphic novel, fittingly entitled Journey’s End.
For those of you who aren’t already aware, Wild’s End is a series set in a world full of anthropomorphic animals – a word which finds itself on the brink of destruction at the hands of a brutal alien invasion. Silent, menacing, Victorian lamppost-looking machines patrol the countryside, obliterating anything in their path, and a rag-tag cast of characters see their lives becoming intertwined as they try desperately to survive and, hopefully, find a way to fight back.
It’s basically War of the Worlds meets Wind in the Willows.
Journey’s End picks up not long after the previous arc, with our surviving cast of characters having barely escaped the doomed village of Lower Crowchurch. All the familiar faces are here, with Mr Minks and Susan Peardew trying to make their way South to escape the evasion, while Clive Slipwaway, Alph and Major Upton do their best to survive in the fields of rural England. The story also features the return of several supporting characters, along with a new face in Jonny Jakes, a fox who bears a striking resemblance to a dearly departed friend.
Dan Abnett has been one of my favourite writers for years now, and his characterisation has rarely been any stronger than it is here. Each character is brilliantly realised, with subtle traits and unique fears and motivations. The relationships between the characters are all equally well realised, with subtle hints of romance, friendship and loyalty all being delivered in an utterly believable ‘show, don’t tell’ style.
The story flows beautifully throughout these six chapters, with the cast of characters each split into smaller groups, overcoming their own obstacles before fate sees their paths converging for a tense, potentially game-changing finale. There are some brilliant moments of bold heroism and subtle character nuance along the way, but for me, youngster Alph pretty much steals the show with an his impassioned plea near the end of the book. Spine-tingling stuff.
As I mentioned, Abnett’s writing chops are pretty much unquestioned, but the way he works to seamlessly alongside frequent collaborator I.N.J. Culbard is nothing less than a thing of beauty. The English countryside is brought to life impressively with a wonderfully understated colour palette, and the animal protagonists are packed with expression. Culbard also shows a mastery of the subtleties of sequential art, using panel layouts and gradually changing images to convey the passage of time and deliver emotional or storyline beats with a real flourish.
While his work may appear basic at first glance, Culbard falls into the same category as the likes of Kyle Starks and Andrew MacLean, where the straightforward nature of their art belies the depth of storytelling it conveys. Each panel is used to advance the story. Every line is skilfully deployed to help evoke a reaction in the reader. It’s masterful stuff, and the setting Abnett has created here provides ample opportunity for Culbard to flex his creative muscle – particularly when it comes to the silent, menacing lamppost aliens.
The denouement wraps things up beautifully, delivering a mixture of finality and ambiguity that falls right in the sweet spot. And, while it’s perhaps sad to realise that there isn’t going to be more Wild’s End down the line, there’s also a feeling of satisfaction that these three arcs have managed to deliver a complete story in such an incredibly enjoyable way.
Simply put, any time Abnett and Culbard collaborate on anything, the best thing you can do is throw money at it. And whether it’s Dark Ages, Brink, or their latest stellar collaboration here, it’s a genuine pleasure to see two creators working together with such perfect synergy on a project they’re both clearly passionate about. Highest possible recommendation for this one, folks.