Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trade Waiting - Wild Children

In this modern, 3G and broadband enabled era we have the ability to find information and answers quicker than ever before, literally at the touch of a screen or button. It’s one of the greatest achievements of the twenty first century so far. The downside of this is the signal to noise ratio is larger than ever, and not just on the internet. It’s becoming increasingly evident that humanity’s attention span is depleting at a rapid rate and major entertainment companies are seemingly scared to take risks with new products, instead rehashing slightly tweaked versions of what came before. Comic books are not immune to this; that’s the reason why many so called critical darlings get cut down at the knees before they get a chance to find their spot in the marketplace and we have a top one hundred that is drowning in bats, spiders, and X’s. Time waits for no man, and as Nas once said, No Idea’s Original. Having said that, there was comic that was recently released that may or may not have been original, but is no doubt completely different to anything else that has been released this year and that comic was Wild Children by industry newcomer Ales Kot and talented Image stalwart, Riley Rossmo. Being different doesn’t necessarily equate to quality though, so is it any good? You know what to do.

Wild Children
Written by Ales Kot
Art by Riley Rossmo and Gregory Wright
Published by Image Comics

There is no doubt; the world has changed. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. Adults used to be pillars of respect and people to look up to, bestowing their knowledge onto the next generation. Now, the next generation doesn’t need adults, it has Google. We are rapidly coming to a point where it will be the children giving the adults the knowledge that we all desperately thirst for. This is the world of Wild Children.

Wild Children is primarily about a student named Uma and her group of friends who decide to hold the staff in their school hostage. What begins as a somewhat clich├ęd concept spirals out of control as you begin to find out what the students demands are. Unlike most students whose demands would be selfish and superficial, be it money, power, or respect; these students want to give something back. They want to impart knowledge onto not just the faculty but the entire world, with the help of hallucinogenic narcotics and a lot of heavy weaponry.

Just when you think that this is a book is treading familiar ground Ales Kot pulls the rug out from underneath you. The comic quickly becomes a living entity in itself. First the characters start talking to you, but breaking the wall isn’t a new thing, Zach was doing that back in the Saved by the Bell days. Then Ales Kot himself begins talking to you, again not a new thing since Stan Lee did it in the sixties. Where Wild Children becomes something else entirely is when the characters start answering questions that you have and commenting on your reactions to the book itself. If it all sounds a little bit Grant Morrison (MBE) it’s because it is. Ales Kot knows this, going as far as explicitly referencing Morrison or his comics on two occasions throughout the book, dragging the thought out of your head and onto the page before you get a chance to call foul. There is also a panel in the book that is totally dedicated to a plot point in The Wire, which to anyone who has experienced the show will make them want to go back and watch the entire series again. Subliminal messages in comics about a cult favourite television series? Something else that has been done before (remember when Marvel did it with Lost?) But done in a way to purposely push you out of the story to further the narrative? Amazing.

Ales Kot is a name that many will be unfamiliar with. After this book that will surely change. Aside from wearing his pop culture icons on his sleeve when it comes to writing, Kot is also an able storyteller. For this to be his first major work is astounding as he has an understanding of the medium that defies his years. In fact, his understanding is so good it allows him to throw the rulebook out of the window and still deliver a cohesive narrative. As mentioned previously, there is no doubt where Ales Kot’s literary influences lie, but he isn’t aping any one in particular. His voice sounds like someone who has been weaned on Morrison and Ellis comics, HBO dramas, gossip blogs, and a doom mongering twenty four hour news cycle to become the sort of comic book writer that this decade deserves. There is a high probability that after reading this, Marvel and DC will sit up and take notice but hopefully Kot keeps one foot in telling his own tales as such a unique voice should create rather than work on someone else’s property. Either way, this is the start of a potentially long and prosperous career for Kot.

Riley Rossmo is quickly becoming the go to guy for slightly off kilter, highly stylised art at Image. First Proof and Cowboy Ninja Viking, then indy hit Green Wake, and now with this, Rossmo is building quite a C.V. for himself. He has a scratchy style that is not too dissimilar to a Bill Sienkiewicz, yet is more tempered, even compared to his previous work, suiting the tone of the book perfectly. At times, Rossmo’s art also reminds of Crying Freeman artist Ryoichi Ikegami, especially in terms of his figure work. Also, when the script calls for it Rossmo changes his style, often on a panel by panel basis and there is one panel in particular that, with the help of colourist Gregory Wright, is completely astounding. The only complaint that can be aimed at the art is early on a shot of Uma performing a sexual act on one of her fellow students was lost as Rossmo (or maybe Kot,) decided that the act should be seen from a far distance, losing the impact of the depravity of what these students were willing to do to each other. Having said that, it is just a minor niggle in a book filled with high points. Adding to Rossmo’s ink work is Gregory Wright’s fine colours. Using an incredibly bright colour palette, Wright adds to the somewhat dreamlike effect the book is trying to convey. At one point Wright throws a Brendan McCarthy style tie dye colour scheme onto the backgrounds adding gravitas to the psychedelic nature of hallucinogenic drugs have on the human mind. Finally, in a touch that potentially only this reviewer cares about, Image decided to give the book a spine meaning it can sit on your book shelf rather than in a longbox. It’s a small thing, yet all the small things count.

Verdict - Must Buy!

Part examination into the information savvy youth of today, part study into the nature of comics, in terms of how they affect both the creator and recipient; Wild Children is completely different to anything on your ‘to read’ stack and deserves all the praise it gets. Sure, there are comics out there that make us question the world around us but how many make us question the very nature of comics themselves and the way that we consume them? Thought provoking and forward thinking, Ales Kot is a name to watch out for in the days, months, and years ahead.

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