Wild Children is a book I would have loved when I was 14. I would have gone ape shit for this book. It would have influenced all the books I sought out afterward, and I might have found my artistic niche a few years earlier. But now, with teen angst safely behind me, it reads like something written by the guy who still goes straight for the back corner seat at the University level, he wears the same t-shirt every other day, and writes poems about tasting purple. Wild Children seems like an attempt to mix style and substance, but their style is wholly borrowed and their substance was impressive perhaps more than a few decades ago.
The tale of a school being held hostage by a group of students who have seen beyond the miasma of the education system, that have seen the world for what it is! With a couple little twists in there that would make M. Night Shyamalamadingdong blush and O. Henry continue to roll in his grave (I swear, one of these days he’s going to come back, and it will be scary and everyone will think the zombie O. Henry is trying to kill us, but in an ironic twist he only wants to teach us).
Give Wild Children to a young kid, someone who doesn’t feel quite like they fit in, and the book will act as a solid stepping stone toward greater works. But having already read those greater works, it just seemed too juvenile to really hold my interest.
The ideas of post-modernist thought presented in Wild Children are done with an “us vs. them” mentality, which directly contradicts the creative unity being preached. Oh yes, it’s also very preachy.
The art is uninspired in the sense that it is trying its darnedest to look exactly like something that would have been cutting edge ten years ago. There are a few full pages here and there that make for a good stand alone image. Part of that may be intentional, as it would be working along the lines of the post-modernist elements the book is going for, but even when those ideas are expressed it is in such a poor fashion that I find it difficult to believe too much thought went into the art.
Especially because of this, there is one page where each panel is drawn in a different style with a footnote at the bottom explaining that they wanted to do the entire book that way, but didn't have enough time. I get the impression that the footnote is meant to be cheeky and cool, but it just made me see the creative team as being lazy and unsure of themselves, so they slough off their insecurities with vague attempts at humor. It’s a good thing they didn't draw the whole book like that too, since that page stands out as probably the most interesting to look at, but it would have been an irascible mess if it went on for any longer. Unfortunately, on the same page is contained the most trite and frustrating uses of post-modernism contained in the book. All I can think to compare it to is that “Kafka-esque” joke from Mission Hill.
In fact, that’s kind of what this entire book is like, a misunderstanding of the meaning of “Kafka-esque”. In defter hands, or with more time spent on the development of the ideas and the narrative, then perhaps Wild Children would have turned out as thought provoking and insightful as the creators seem to think it is. As it stands, though, they’re a day late and a dollar short. Opting to go places and use things just because they’re weird, not because the creators have any understanding of what that means.
TL;DR The wild children that created Wild Children present you with ideas they don’t seem to understand.
Wild Children is written by Ales Kot with art by Riley Rossmo, Gregory Wright, and Clayton Cowles. Published by Image Comics, you can ask for it at your local comic book shop or, support Spandexless by purchasing through Amazon.
A review copy of Wild Children was graciously donated to Spandexless by the creator.