One of THE standout indie release in recent years has been Beast Wagon from writer Owen Micheal Johnson & artist John Pearson and with the highly anticipated third chapter ready to be launched next weekend I’ve been lucky enough to get an early look.
That nightmarish cover from John should be a clear indicator that things are about to get weird and while in most instances that may be an off putting thought the fact it’s this particular title makes this all more intriguing to get into. I could tell you that things get a bit trippy from the start but that doesn’t really do this justice as Owen & John obviously have some grand plans for their creation and every element seems perfectly measured. Opening with writer Patrick Edwards experiencing a new dimension with a spirit animal it could well have become disjointed with what we’ve read before but it doesn’t, it’s weird but it also makes sense and I don’t really know how that works but the creators are firing on all cylinders from the start.
The humans are generally still portrayed as the complaining, greedy observers of the caged animals but the staff in Whipsnarl Zoo seem to be firmly on the side of the animals. While the fallout from the previous incident sees news hungry reports all the more likely to be seen in the zoo as they secretly film some of the animals and staff – the mistrust element seems to bubble under the surface and helps build tension. The animals however, seem to remain the stars of the book as their unheard comments and animosity towards some of the humans they interact with prove to be the most cutting & ultimately funny sets of dialogue I’ve read in a while. There’s a Goat telling a joke to a donkey…..that in itself has to be an indicator of how confident these guys are in telling the story they want to tell.
Patrick’s journey of discovery weaves in and out of this issue and there’s some interesting flashbacks to his childhood that brings him closer to making some glorious discoveries relating to his purpose on this earth and the kinship shared between animal and beast. This and some other key elements all seem to highlight the threat to the zoo itself as the staff try and keep things calm & the animals safe as the masses descend upon them. Everything seems to be in hand until the final reveal on the last page which has to be seen to be believed.
This is a breathless and invigorating third chapter of the story as it hits a breakneck pace that it’s always seemed to be threatening from that first page of chapter one. What you’re left with after reading this is a series of questions that force you to delve back into it straight away in the hope of taking in even more of the detail and subtlety the story has to offer…..and THAT’S the very thing a unique comic should do. It’s a reading experience from the whole creative team as Owen’s writing, John’s art and the lettering from Colin Bell all combine to give you one of those titles that is both beautiful and thought-provoking…..with a little bit of humour and head-fuck thrown in for good measure.
There is a signing and launch party for this at Gosh in London on the 27th Feb and if you can’t make that you can pre-order this itself or as part of a comic bundle over on the Changeling Studios online store.