Comic Review: Wasteland #33 from Oni Press

Wasteland #33

Creative Team:
Writer: Antony Johnston | Artist: Justin Greenwood | Cover Artist: Christopher Mitten

“Houses Of The Holy” BRAND NEW STORY ARC STARTS HERE! Michael and Abi continue their journey West, through the wasteland — with the assassin Gerr secretly at their side. But after a mysterious midnight encounter in the desert, they reach the Cross Chains town of Godsholm… and Michael finds himself on the wrong side of the devout!

Welcome to the WASTELAND, a post-apocalyptic comic about a trio of travelers making their way towards A-Ree-Yass-I, where the germination of the Big Wet occurred. The Big Wet was a cataclysmic event of unknown origin that caused the oceans to rise and transformed America into a barren, desert wasteland. The remaining humanoids are left with virtually no sustainable agriculture and have culturally regressed to a more primitive outlook on life, the universe, everything.

In recent memory the “post-apocalyptic” genre has exploded in every medium imaginable. What was once for a niche audience is now fairly mainstream and somewhat over-exposed, making it that much harder for a quality title to stand. In an almost Darwinian uphill battle, WASTELAND emerges from the muckity-muck of post-apoc literature to give readers something other than the usual “Holy crap, the world is over! What do we do now!?”

They did this by offering up their comic for $1 this past week, hopefully enticing new readers to check it out. For this reviewer, it worked, and while the low-low price will make you pick it up off the shelf, the distinctive b&w art and socially relevant story line should bait you into taking it to the register. WASTELAND is written by Anthony Johnston and while the setting is the very familiar post-apocalyptic landscape, Johnston doesn’t let that carry the story or use it as a crutch to excuse one dimensional characters. The hallmark of any great genre piece is that it can hold its own as a non-genre work. Are the characters well-crafted enough to still be interesting if the world hadn’t ended? Will the story still be interesting if the setting wasn’t so extreme? In the case of WASTELAND the answer to both is an emphatic, “yes.” Even though he isn’t a protagonist, the first character we see speak is that of Zakk, a Brother at the local cross chains (church) who believes that people’s faith can blind them to common sense. He runs across the trio of travelers (Michael, Abbi & Gerr) as they enter his small town. To enter the town they have to cross a small bridge which is said to be a safeguard against devils. As the bridge is so dilapidated, one of the trio falls into the dyke below, setting off the townsfolk into a religious fervor. Even if the setting of this story were set in a pre-apocalyptic landscape, it would still be an interesting look at how quickly people can turn on each other over something seemingly innocuous.

Artist and fellow Oakland-ite, Justin Greenwood takes over the pencils and inks on WASTELAND. The second page hits you pretty hard when you turn to it (unless you’re used to seeing ghostly schlongs) and it sets the mood for the rest of the issue. Some may see the lack of color in a comic as a hindrance, but similar to the Walking Dead, by leaving such a classically colorful genre like post-apoc. fiction in black white makes the reader key to the characters’ faces. Greenwood aptly captures the mood of a scene by writing it all over the players’ visages. Whether it be Zakk’s disgusted sneer at the townspeople, Michael’s uncharacteristically warm smile to Gerr or the ominous shadowing of Abi’s face when she’s laying down the law, Greenwood is able to add a new dimension to Johnston’s already intriguing script.

WASTELAND #33 is available now at local comic shops that know what to carry for only a $1 and as they’ve had a pretty strong outing with WASTELAND, expect to see more ONI titles reviewed here at the Freakin’ Awesome Network!

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