Pullbox Reviews: Squarriors Summer #4

Created by/Writer/Layouts:  Ash Maczko

Art/Letters/Colors:  Ashley Witter

Publisher:  Devil’s Due Comics

Available:  October 30

Diamond Code:  AUG191859

(Note:  I’m reposting this review, which originally appeared in August, due to my having been waaaaaayyyyy too excited and posting it, well, two months early.  It’s finally out tomorrow, and deserves your attention.)

After an agonizingly long wait (apparently, developing and marketing two separate card games and producing ongoing cover orders for Marvel as well as an un-ending list of commissions tends to be a drain on one’s time), the post-apocalyptic sentient rodents are back—and bloodier than ever!

If you are uninitiated to the Squarrior-verse, the comic, brainchild and product of “Team Ash” (Ash Maczko and Ashley Witter) centers around tribes of now-sentient fur and feathered creatures fighting for their existence along bloody philosophical lines after some as-yet-undisclosed cataclysm ended all human life on earth and left her creatures in their present enlightened state.

Tread cautiously though, gentle reader—for Squarriors is no 5th-grader’s Watership Down.  Nay—think more Mouse Guard meets Animal Farm meets Quentin Tarantino in a cage match to the death.  The gore is frequent and bloody, the body count high.  And the cast…well, frankly more engaging and likable than any I’ve seen in a Tarantino flick.

The structure of the book is equal parts mystery, political intrigue and war documentary. Each issue opens with a flashback to just before the apocalypse and centers around the life of Edgar Witmac (get it?), a teenager fighting for his own survival in mid-1980’s rural Illinois as chaos erupts around him, and the world goes insane.  We then flash forward to the “present” of 1996 and the world of the Squarriors.

As Summer draws to a close, the mystery of “the Flash” continues to evolve: this issue’s flashback centers on a chance (re)encounter for a young and angry Edgar, as we inch loser and closer to the apocalyptic event (now one week away).

In the present, the Amoni-Maw invasion of the Tin Kin compound rages on in a battle reminiscent of—and every bit as visceral as—that of Helm’s Deep.   Heroes and villains battle by tooth and claw, many for the last time, while loved ones cower in fear or flee for safety.  Meanwhile far away, starving prisoner Spin searches desperately for escape, and makes a curious—and hopeful?—discovery in the heart of the Amoni compound.

Squarriors: Summer Issue 4 (now of 5) is fast-paced and brutal, centering primarily around the siege.  Maczko wisely allows Witter’s visuals do much of the heavy lifting this time through: the combat is intense, the blood free-flowing.  Her integration of the battlefield commands into the art itself works well, and both her linework and coloring remain of superior quality.  If you’re like me, you’ll have raced through the entire work in a few moments’ time, anguishing for what’s next, then you’ll read it again, absorbing the tale, panel by panel.  And then you’ll do it again, not even reading it now, but immersing yourself in the rich colors and astonishingly realistic lines.  And eventually, your kids will wonder why you haven’t taken them to school yet…

Squarriors as a series is a truly stunning work, and clearly a labor of love for both members of Team Ash.  Maczko’s tale-spinning is spare and demanding, offering only what the reader needs and expecting them to intuit the gaps; he doesn’t spend pages on exposition and explanation so that the reader can write a dissertation of each character’s history—you and I get to do that work.  And most importantly, he trusts his artist to share in the telling of his story.  And what an artist she is.  Ashley Witter is an excellent penciller and other-worldly colorist on a bad day; she has apparently never had a bad day while drawing Squarriors.  Each panel is in itself a frameable piece.  Taken as a whole…wow.  This is not comic book art; this is ART, which happens to be in a comic book.  The synergy between the two of them elevates their book to such a degree that to call it a “comic book” is frankly inadequate, and certainly unfair to anything else selling itself under such a moniker.

And it doesn’t hurt that Team Ash happens to be two of the most pleasant and humble folk in the comic book industry (I had the pleasure of meeting them at C2E2 this spring); if you have the chance to get to the con next March, be sure to stop by their table…if they haven’t grown beyond such paltry affairs by then!

Squarriors is available via Devil’s Due Comics directly, on Comixology, or Amazon.  Team Ash products (including past Squarrior issues, and the gorgeous hard-cover release of Volume 1, as well as both print and original Ashley Witter art and some really cool card games) are available via their website, shopcoldwar.us.

13 (out of 13).  Squarriors is one of the coolest stories I’ve read, with easily the most gorgeous art.

Review by Andy Patch, thePullbox.com

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