The Wilds #1
Writer: Vita Ayala
Artist: Emily Pearson
Colors: Marissa Louise
Letters: Jim Campbell
Cover artists: Pearson (Cover A)/Natasha Alterici (Cover B)
Editor: Danny Lore
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Price: $3.99 US
At first glance, The Wilds might seem just like you have another post-apocalyptic/zombie-drama comic, in which it’s firmly entrenched. However, this comic book is crafted by women; the writer, artist and colorist are all women, and that helps to set this title apart from others like it. The focus is squarely on the female characters, even though they’re not necessarily in charge. They do stand out as the strongest players in this drama, though. The central conflict here is about responsibility to one’s community versus responsibility to oneself and one’s family. That character-driven aspect of the book is surprisingly relatable, even for those of us who haven’t had to live or survive in a zombie apocalypse.
Daisy is the best runner the Compound has; it’s her job to leave the safety of the Compound’s walls and venture out Into the Wilds, where those infected by a plague known as the Reckoning mindlessly wander until they happen upon the uninfected and attack. Daisy’s been at this job for so long that she’s actually paid off her debts to the leaders of the Compound, and if she wanted, she could retire and leave, seeking safety and peace anywhere she so chooses. Her friends and her lover encourage her to leave the life of a runner behind, but she can’t bring herself to do it. Is it out of obligation to those she helps with her supply runs, or is there something else driving her to travel the roads of a dangerous world?
Emily Pearson’s linework is effective and clear, though her figures have a stiffness about them that occasionally makes them seem like puppets rather than people. However, I do find the art here to be attractive. Her work seems like a cross between the styles of Phil Noto and Tula Lotay. The characters she portrays look like people, complete with vulnerabilities. I like that Daisy is attractive, but the weight on her shoulders shows in her face. Her lover is almost impossibly beautiful, and I felt the extended sex scene came off as a little bit gratuitous and distracting from the more important character-driven aspects of their scenes. Colorist Marissa Louise employs a palette that’s realistic but also rather sullen, and appropriately so.
The scenes depicting Daisy’s travails in the Wilds are rather standard fare for a zombie drama. The focus on scavenging, the ethical dilemma over possibly saving someone, her badass dispatching of the mindless threats — it’s all a little too familiar. Of course, given the success of The Walking Dead — both in comics and on television — anyone venturing into the genre is bound to be compared to the more successful sibling or run the risk of reminding the audience of it. Vita Ayala handles the standard conventions of the genre well, but fortunately, she offers more in the way of characterization to help the reader take notice of her writing.
As I read about Daisy’s dilemma about sticking with her job as a runner or calling it quits, as those who love her feel she should, I couldn’t help but think the writer was speaking to a more universal malaise in everyday life. Just about everyone has been in that position in which he or she no longer cares for their job or career, when everyone around them is encouraging them to make a change for the better. It’s easy to relate to Daisy’s reluctance to move on, for various reasons. Her actual circumstances are impossible to relate conceive, but her feelings about our purpose, her role in her small corner of the world — there’s something grounded and resident in that.
It’s notable that the strongest characters in this world are the women. The male characters are either manipulative or weak, be it the man running the compound, the guy Daisy saved on the road or the boastful male counterpart in the community’s lineup of runners. Ayala easily convinces her audience of Daisy’s confidence, of the compound’s female mechanic’s skills, of the depth of Daisy’s love for her partner, of the strength of all these women. Such a strong viewpoint makes for interesting characters in what could have otherwise been yet another zombie comic. 7/10