July 21, 2015

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Wart - Book 2 by Ammar Al-Chalabi and Chris Welsh


Written by Chris Welsh
 Art by Ammar Al-Chalabi
At the end of Book 1, Wart had been kidnapped once again and was about to meet some cunning and yet wholly incompetent Dark Monks. After spending his last few nights being dragged from dimension to dimension, Wart's sanity is on the verge of collapsing and the small snippets of information he receives are nowhere near enough. Despite this book rejoining the story during another hijacking, it also shows Wart starting to embrace the world that he's found himself in and the beginnings of him driving his own journey.
During his trip to each dimension last issue, Wart was told by each group that he encountered that each of the other groups was malevolent and not to be trusted. This book's meeting with the Dark Monks completes the cycle by telling us that they believe that even the Elder Gods themselves have been infiltrated. This is a clever decision that takes the dramatic irony which usually helps the reader and turns it against us, blurring the lines between good and evil even further.
Despite all of the supernatural politics  and treachery, the book never takes itself too seriously. It retains its fantastic combination of humour and horror from the first book via character moments and lines that wholly juxtapose the dramatic scenes surrounding them. Along with that, there are some delightfully self-referential moments that make light of the genre that this book fits in. While this could potentially be jarring, it lightens up the tone of the series just enough that you feel as though it belongs. Whether or not this is an indication about Wart's ultimate fate remains to be seen.

Al-Chalabi's artistic style really sucks you into this disgusting and yet inviting world with the right level of harrowing and exaggerated features. The detail with which he depicts the many creatures that Wart encounters is remarkably nightmarish. Even in groups of similarly styled creatures, each of them has a distinct enough style that they each feel unique.
When Wart falls into the void, there is some gorgeous panel work that, when coupled with the narration boxes guiding his fall, create a wonderful feeling of motion. However, there are some zoomed-in panels where an establishing shot would be have been helpful to fully glean a point of reference for what is occurring. The context can usually be gained by looking at subsequent panels, but can occasionally break up the flow of the story.
A specific colour pallet has been selected for each of the worlds that Wart travels between. The world of the water-dwellers has a blood-red sky to match the unquestionable horror that we encounter there. The previously mentioned Dark Monks exist in a world between worlds and exist in front of an appropriately white and disturbingly empty background.
The main world where Wart remains trapped in an asylum is covered with varying grey and black tones. This allows us to subconsciously associate this area with depression and loneliness and yearn for the colourful worlds that come with adventures outside of it. However, when Blythe makes her first appearance, the colour of her blue dress stands out against the background as a shining light of hope and a promise of something better.

One of the defining mysteries of the last volume was the enigmatic woman with the mysterious numbers carved into her face. While there were hints in bonus chapter 3.5 about her location, Wart remained completely clueless. Through a series of events, he is finally able to track down the person that he believes is his path out of his living nightmare. Instead of a comforting promise, both Wart and subsequently the reader are greeted with hostility.
By introducing Blythe as a confrontational and untrustworthy character, it highlights the plight our main character has found himself in. Even though she signified his only hope in a world out to get him, Wart has to deal with the fact that she only takes him along because he was in the right place at the right time. The epitome of Wart's life currently appears to be misjudging situations and finding himself getting either physically beaten or dismissed as unimportant. By creating a lowly punching bag as a protagonist, Welsh has created a far more compelling character that you hope will eventually take complete control of his destiny and fight back.

As with the last book, the collected version of the story comes with a bonus little story as a reward. It provides another little story that explains the history behind a recurring and previously unexplored character. It is amusing and tragic in equal measures and is a great addition to the universal lore being constructed here. If you're in love with this world and are looking for an excuse to splash out on these collections, then the bonus stories will definitely please you.
With the recently announced Kickstarter to raise money for Book 3, Wart has a bright future and looks to be expanding further and further on what it's already established. Now that Wart has found himself no longer alone, the book seems to have found itself shifting towards its humorous nature. Knowing the Lovecraftian stories upon which this comic is based, this is likely a shield for future tragedy. This team knows how to work together marvellously with the light-hearted and yet ominous story intertwining with the art. Go and get involved in this series before it gets away from you.