Publisher: Image Comics
Writer/Artist: Mirka Andolfo
Colour Assists: Gianluca Papi
Lettering: Fabio Amelia
Release Date: 6th March 2019
I raved about the first arc of this new translation of Mirka Andolfo’s dystopic, anthropomorphic tale. Somewhere between Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’ and Orwell’s ‘1984’, by way of Strangers in Paradise and Love & Rockets, it’s dark, funny and downright sexy (and that’s before we even talk about the variant NSFW covers).
I stumbled across this at issue 4, loved the first arc, and then completely forgot about it. Oh no! What to do? Better get back on board! So, yes, you should go back to issue #5, if not back to the start (and you really should, there’s a TPB and everything!) – but purely for research purposes, I decided to read issue #8 first, spoilers be damned…
Except I didn’t. Because straight away the issue warns you against doing so, and especially against skipping to the last page (… Must… Resist…) – genuinely, you need to go back and read at least from the start of this arc (at issue 5). Still, technology is a wonderful thing, so that’s doable – and well worth it.
A brief recap: Leslie, the heroine, is a blue-haired rock chick – or pig, rather – shy, chubby, insecure and plagued by erotic dreams of a wolf (which may or may not be because of her mother’s affair with one), being forced into a same-species marriage by the fascistic government, all the while dealing with her roommate’s murder. Now, she has channelled a mystical past-life and force of power that’s making her even more of an aberration in her world. By the end of issue 4, Leslie is on the run from the government, the sinister cult-leader Glance, and an increasingly supernatural presence of the wolf from her dreams… oh, and now she’s been framed for her best friend’s murder, having to trust the self-same wolf in the real, and increasingly hostile, world.
I’m being honest, I had a niggle. A worry, at the back of my brain, much like Leslie’s vulpine distractions. Could this comic handle the switch to pseudo-supernatural? You might think I’m being ridiculous, worrying that this R-Rated Zootropolis was getting weird(er), but ultimately that’s a whole other genre getting layered on top. Dystopic romance is one thing, but it’s like the rule of monkey-ninja-pirate-robot: any 2 in combination is good, 3 or more is stupid.
But actually, if anything, it’s a change for the better. As a supernatural mystery comic, it feels more coherent – partly because the writer is fully into her stride, partly because we’re deeper into the world. Leslie continues to struggle with The Albino, the vastly powerful Wolf-spirit within her, whilst continuing her desperate escape from The Glance and her psychotic almost-ex, Jones. The payoff, and the big reveal at the end of the issue – which is absolutely worth it – isn’t just clever, it exploits the comic medium very neatly (without being all meta – it’s just rather good). You’ll be kicking yourself when you find out, not that (like all good mysteries) it doesn’t ask more questions than it answers.
I do have a couple of niggles still. There’s a throwaway line from Jones in issue 3 about infiltrating the programme which still doesn’t make sense (in fact, even less sense); hopefully that will get resolved in the final arc. I’m still occasionally unsure when the art becomes momentarily too shōjo manga for my taste.
But these are genuinely minor concerns. It’s an excellent tale with great art, vibrant colouring and a properly gripping story. As the excellent, grimy cover implies, Leslie is starting to come into full command of her powers, building towards what promises to be a thrilling finale. Given that it’s the last issue in the arc, I can’t give too much away, but it’s well worth the suspense.
Let’s be clear. Unnatural really shouldn’t be my sort of thing. Supers, horror, dystopic sci-fi, that’s me. Granted this ticks the last box, but still – it isn’t a comic I’d usually pick up. But it is an absolute treat. It’s as heartfelt, funny and saucy as Sunstone, as (curly-tail) twisted in its anthropomorphic social commentary as Blacksad, and just a damn fine feminist mystery comic that’s up there with the best that Image, or anyone, has to offer.
If you want to find out more about UNNATURAL, make sure to check out our interview with Mirka Andolfo by CLICKING HERE.