Written by Antony Johnston and drawn by Christopher Mitten
Published by Oni Press
“100 years after the Big Wet, somewhere in America…” A bandaged wanderer is trudging through a desert until he comes across an abandoned camp-site. While investigating he is attacked by a trio of robed reptilian creatures. In the battle that follows the wanderer shows ruthless combat skills, cunning and a mysterious ability, all without saying a word. In fact it is the creatures that are the first to utter dialogue in this book, not that I realised it was dialogue at first. These sand-eaters speak in a rough sibilant, pidgin that needs to be spoken aloud to grasp its meaning.
These first seven pages set the tone for this book; sparse, lean, violent and magnificent. The writing is so fucking good. Tight economical story telling that feels incredibly dense but without being wordy. Johnston wastes no time with explanation, you need to keep up with the pace he sets and hope to fill in the gaps in your knowledge along the way.
Within a handful of pages you have an understanding of how this world operates but crave to learn more. Johnston warps familiar tropes into interesting new places. We have all seen a post apocalyptic wasteland or two but this one feels new and fascinating. Johnston lays each wispy sheet of his story on you until it’s not so much world building as patisserie.
Our wanderer soon comes across a township, where we learn his name and that he is not alone in having special skills. As in all good westerns, our taciturn hero is drawn into helping others perhaps against his nature. The story soon develops layers, political intrigue, strange creatures and exotic cultures
The art too is sparse, enhanced by the lack of colour, which with much of the white in the panels gives the impression of heat as well as space in this bleak desert. Mitten has a scratchy line but manages to keep the meaning and flow of his panels clear.
I rarely notice lettering but here it is great. There are lots of wordless panels and pages but they are often enhanced by sound-effects which are used to great effect and drawn very well. Even the word balloons add to the story by helping the flow of the eye across the page and pacing the dialogue.
Should I buy it? This is one post-apocalyptic Wasteland that I am happy to cross, it is high level comic book storytelling and recommended for all.
Next week:Damn it might be time to dip into the Marvel Universe and see if there is an X-men comic worth reading. If Rick Remender and Jerome Opena live up to their reputations there will be. Look out for Wolverines’ secret kill team, Uncanny X-Force.