COMIC REVIEW: Wild Children

By definition, a wild child is one isolated from human contact and has little or no experience of civility. One could say wild children are feral. Wild Children,a story by Kot and art by Rossmo, is a one-shot produced by Image, who say that it combines the themes of Ellis’ controversial Hellblazer: Shoot with the sensibility of Morrison’s Kill Your Boyfriend.

Having read neither, no comment. However [spoiler alert], it reminded me slightly of Marvel’s 1985. Not the superhero bit, but the metafiction bit. Comic characters aware that they are in sequential art.

Wild Children is set in an US high school, where a group of eponymous kids have taken the teachers hostage. They appear to be unhappy with the education system and what they see as the state churning out mind-numbed slaves. They set up cameras and broadcast live to the world. They claim to have put LSD in the coffee yet, that the guns and bombs are not real. They still manage to shoot a teacher with them. What is their real purpose? What is their message? How will the armed forces amassing outside react, especially when the nameless commander labels them as terrorists? They are not so much feral, but come across as perfectly civil. Interesting juxtaposition of expectations. There are 60 pages to let the plot unravel. Or more to the point, to let the readers’ minds unravel.

The panels are, for the most part, large and evenly spread. The colours are mostly washed out. There is no bright superhero colouring here. Rossmo’s artwork has an un-nerving quality, which I’m guessing is deliberate. Contrary to that however, there are occasional panels of colour, when the teachers are seeing things through an acid haze, and when the fourth wall is broken, different artistic styles are shown. He has previously drawn Draken: Dark Wolverine for Marvel and Image’s Proof and Green Wake amongst others, so he knows genres and he knows darkness. The style he brings is simple yet effective, with lots of use of space, white and black, and large panels.

The script by relative unknown Kot is sharp and smart. There are references to psychology and cultural notes. I particularly enjoyed the reference to Cronenberg and the characters’ reactions to that reference. The bubbles are very wordy at times and he uses footnotes at the bottom of the pages which talk directly and candidly to the reader. He takes the potentially clichéd story of the high school massacre (clichéd, already?) and turns it into something deeper and more reflective. It could be a drug-fuelled question of who are we anyway? Or it could be a critique on comics. I would suggest the reader decide.

Wild Children is certainly the most original and challenging one-shot I’ve read. Kot is nothing if not inventive. And it even ends with a nice, gory, massacre, before a perplexing coda. Turtles all the way down?

Reviewer: Ian J Simpson

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