Take a journey into a beautiful apocalypse, with our review of “The Wilds” #1, which contains some spoilers
Written by Vita Ayala
Illustrated by Emily Pearson
Colored by Marissa Louise
Lettered by Jim Campbell
After a cataclysmic plague sweeps across America, survivors come together to form citystate-like communities for safety. Daisy Walker is a Runner for The Compound, a mix of post-apocalyptic postal service and black market salvaging operation. It is a Runner’s job to ferry items and people between settlements, and on occasion scavenge through the ruins of the old world. Daisy is the best there is at what she does. Out beyond the settlement walls are innumerable dangers: feral animals, crumbling structures, and Abominations – those that were touched by the plague and became something other. After a decade of surviving, Daisy isn’t phased by any of it – until her lover, another Runner named Heather goes missing on a job. Desperate to find her, Daisy begins to see that there may be little difference between the world inside the walls and the horrors beyond. From writer Vita Ayala (Bitch Planet: Triple Feature, Wonder Woman Annual) and Emily Pearson (Cult Classic) with colors by Marissa Louise (Spell On Wheels) and covers by Natasha Alterici (Heathen), comes this bold tale of surviving in bleak times.
Writing original post-apocalyptic fiction these days is starting to feel like surviving in a zombie-infested wasteland: not many people manage it and those that don’t become one of the homogenous hordes. It’s always interesting to find original takes on the end of the world, but unfortunately “The Wilds” doesn’t feel all that original, at least in this first issue.
In a case of the solicit giving away more of the plot than the issue itself does (something that happens far too often), we’re told that runner Daisy is exposed to the truth of her world when she hunts for her partner and fellow runner Heather, who goes missing. That sounds interesting, but that doesn’t actually happen in this issue. We’re introduced to Daisy and Heather, and through an introductory page or two we get filled in on what the apocalypse of choice is for “The Wilds,” and by the end of the issue we know that something bad has happened to another runner, but if Heather has gone missing, it’s not made clear.
Following an unknown viral outbreak, a safe zone called the compound is set up, and those who go beyond its walls to scavenge supplies are called runners. We follow Daisy, the “best there is at what she does,” on her latest run, as she returns to the compound with an unknown civilian in tow. We see her meet back up with Heather and some of her friends, and numerous times it’s mentioned that Daisy should be getting out of the running game entirely, but she’s not so keen.
Again, unfortunately, none of this feels that new or exciting. Someone who appears to be the leader of the compound is a friendly face, someone who says all the right words, but there’s something sinister lying under the surface. Along with that, there are implications that the compound is not all it seems, but that in itself doesn’t feel like enough to grab the attention of the fans of this genre, and indeed it’s a storyline used frequently.
The design of the Abominations, those infected by the virus, is pretty striking, in that all of the usual gore associated with zombies is replaced by blooming flowers. It’s no coincidence that the two main protagonists – Heather and Daisy – are named after plants, giving the impression that “The Wilds” definitely has a theme it’s playing with. Plant-based apocalypses aren’t new, but the way that the infection presents itself sets the look of this issue apart. Instead of sores or grotesque mutations, the Abominations are nothing like their name suggests, but covered in beautiful wildflowers. There are graphic moments of violence, but their look is intentionally pretty.
Maintaining fairly strict panel borders throughout “The Wilds” #1, artist Emily Pearson is perhaps emulating the strict sense of order and control in Daisy’s life, something that is echoed when that order is ripped away on the final page. Pearson’s facial expressions are strong and emotive, and while occasionally the poses can feel a little static, there’s a dynamic flow to her art that tells the story well. Marissa Louise’s bold, clean colors match Pearson’s crisp lines and help to sell the idea that, as apocalypses go, this one is fairly clean and bright. As the issues develop, it would be good to see that structure devolve slightly, as Daisy’s ordered world gives way to chaos.Continued below
There are a few times when it wasn’t clear who some of the characters were, and the pacing on the final few pages felt a little off, as if some time had passed but the reader isn’t given enough information to discern that. Otherwise “The Wilds” #1 maintains a fairly linear structure throughout, as we follow Daisy’s view of her world.
Overall there doesn’t feel like enough information is given in “The Wilds” #1 to set it apart in the over-crowded post-apocalypse genre. There’s a little of Greg Rucka’s “Lazarus” in here, and a sprinkling of “The Walking Dead” (through no fault of “The Wilds,” as Robert Kirkman’s behemoth has influenced everything in this genre since its inception) but not yet enough of “The Wilds” shines through in this debut issue. There’s promise here, and perhaps this could have benefitted from being an oversized debut issue to allow the story to develop more, but as it stands there isn’t enough in this first issue to grab your attention.
Final Verdict: 6.5 – Despite an unoriginal debut issue, “The Wilds” does show some promise.