(Titan Comics, 2014)
A1 Presents: The Weirding Willows Volume 1: What the Wild Things Are
Story by Dave Elliott
Line Art by Barnaby Bagenda and Sami Basri
Colors by Sunny Gho, Jessica Kholinne, Sakti Yuwono, Ifansyah Noor, Fahriza Kamaputra, Gloria Caeli
Letters by Imam E. Wibowo
If you’ve been looking to fill that Fables void, if Legenderry is just a little too steampunk for you, than The Weirding Willows may just fit the bill. A1 and Titan Comics’ series about the strange and varied worlds surrounding Alice was just collected into it’s first Volume, so it’s a good time to catch up and gear up.
I first heard about Weirding Willows last year when it debuted and immediately wanted to read it. Somehow it evaded my grasping fingers, and up to now I’ve had no little amount of trouble scrabbling through musty comic shops to find it. But the draw was there from the start, from the captivating art to a story by the ever-enjoyable Dave Elliott (Odyssey, Samurai’s Blood), I knew this would be something I’d like. But now that it sits before me, I find the trepidation mounting. What if it’s bad? What if I don’t like it? What if…oh worst of thoughts…I do like it and it ends too soon? Enough. Plunge on through and consequences be damned.
What the Wild Things are is the collection of the first five issues, the first story arc that introduces but by no means explains the main characters. Like Fables, Elliott takes popular characters from literature and throws them into the mix together, and like Bill Willingham’s award-winning series, the results are always unpredictable. But you can see the difference right off in this arc. Whereas Willingham focused on mainstream characters like Snow White and Prince Charming, Elliott begins the tale with Alice Moreau and her father, Dr. Moreau. (Yes…that doctor.) Henry Jekyll makes an appearance, as well as Margareete Marche, (looking decidedly green and witchy). The arc begins with animal experimentation, the cutting of creatures, molding of flesh; it all has a much darker feeling than the Willingham series. (Bigby Wolf became a much darker hero as the story progressed, but began as sort of a joke.) As the five issues go on I thought that Elliott stayed quite true to the characters, and where the story varied it made sense and worked. Alice is no naïve girl, but an independent, intuitive teenager who has obviously been on more adventures than her father gives her credit for.
Barnaby Bagenda and Sami Basri do line art for this book, and colors provided by a myriad of talented artists. I really like Bagenda’s art in that it had a sketchy quality to it, and when combined with the colors for those first couple of issues it created a unique look. It didn’t have the traditional “slick” comic look, but more of a watercolor feel that mated well with the pastoral setting.
The first time I read Watership Down, I thought, “This is a story about rabbits…” and when it ended, I said to myself…”Not only was this not about rabbits, but at the same time, the best story about rabbits I’ve ever and will ever read.” Weirding Willows felt like that when I read it. Elliott’s genius is in the fact that he’s written a fairy tale story that isn’t about fairy tales. (But it really is too.) Check out the Titan Comics collection of Weirding Willows, and if you’re lucky, go back to that musty shop and find the single issues. You won’t be disappointed.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.