Wild’s End has proven quite the surprising title thus far: it’s tempting to call it War of the Worlds with fluffy British anthropomorphs, and accurate though that might be, it says nothing to the value of a simple story done correctly. The artwork of I.N.J. Culbard and writing of Dan Abnett are simple, understated, and miraculously tackle quaintness more on the side of realism, despite taking place at the turn of the century in a country we’re normally used to cartooning with accents and stuffy mannerisms.
The characters, from the stoic Navy-hound Slipaway, to reclusive author-in-the-woods, Mrs. Susan Peardew, to Fawkes the boozer, find their unassuming rural hamlet under unexpected siege from familiar, tentacle-armed invaders wielding unnatural weaponry. It’s very easy to come to care for their plight (not least of all because we’re following a pig, bloodhound, mink, and cat, all finely dressed), and the horror aspects of the comic are delivered bluntly and effectively: to see a diminutive streetlamp/crab automaton abruptly torch a respected hare to the earth, after watching him spearhead the town’s festival council just hours earlier, is a pitiful, helluva thing indeed. It’s got a charming Welcome to Night Vale sort of feel to it, and bears a propelling urgency throughout the miniseries.
So far, we’ve been following the ragtag group and their flight through the wooded countryside, fleeing from house to field to town, seeking some way of alerting the civilized world to the new threat. Each installment so far has introduced new characters and seen the threat escalate nicely, into the fifth issue which sees our heroes fleeing the Four Horseman tavern when a gargantuan version of the tentacled creatures makes its appearance.
Once again, they’re forced to take flight through the underbrush, and we see their mannered worldviews begin to assimilate the insane gravity of the situation at last. During a respite under cover, Mrs. Peardew and reporter Mr. Minks begin to chronicle the events, she as a writer of literary fiction sitting against a tree, and he as the village reporter sitting in the tree’s arms, both scribbling into their respective notepads . It’s testament to Abnett’s own literary ability that a simple exchange of cigarettes and civilities from these beleaguered folk feels momentous in its own right, and it’s small character moments like these that keep me buying such an elegant title from Boom! And, of course, watching their warm-blooded personalities run up against a threat they’ve only seen in unrespectable penny-paperbacks.
After a midnight flight downriver to Squire Umbleton’s house, a gnarled old ram of a countryside gentleman, the gang attempts to a run to town by automobile with the gargantuan invader on their trail, a situation which lays a new conundrum at their feet—to lead the thing to town would be disastrous, which leads them to a question for the next issue: how does one destroy a 4-story metal squid with two rifles and an old Model T auto?