By Olly MacNamee
Any optimism the animals of Whipsnarl Zoo may have had in the first two issues of this British Comic Awards nominated book seems to have evaporated in this third installment, as the King of The Jungle – and the animals great hope – remains dosed and therefore docile, trapped like the others in cages of both the body and the mind. The dark humour seems to be edged out this time round to be replaced with a more fervent, horrific mood to the whole issue as we lurch from reality into the dreamscape where humans and animals can communicate. Breaking down the barriers of time and space, one of Beast Wagon's many characters, Patrick Edwards, is transported back through time to his childhood and a particularly fond memory. A memory not too far removed from the plot of the series thus far, as little Patrick sums up the plot of issue one concisely to his grandparents. Seems as though this dreamscape can break down barriers between reality and fiction too. Very meta, but also, suggestive that Patrick may well hold the solution to the problems that are mounting in real time at the zoo.
The artwork, especially the layered textures, adds to the dream like quality of the proceedings, as John Pearson delivers his best work of the series so far and keeping, on the whole, to earthy tones and colours which brings an appropriately warm fuzz to each page and reminding us of the heat dominating the day and sending emotions, like the mercury in a thermometer, soaring. Echoes of the Savannah haunt each page of this books and only go to remind the reader, and the animals, where they would be happiest; free and away from the human world we have created where animals are just another form of entertainment for the whole family.
Owen Michael Johnson's scripting jumps from scene to scene and character to character throughout the book which, in my mind, adds to the growing confusion – of both the animals and their human keepers – and tensions that are starting to build around the zoo and its treatment of the animals, their captives, with the last page will leave you horrifically surprised to say the least and, once again, in no doubt as to who are the real apex predators. The fourth issue can't get here quick enough now as my interest has been further peaked by the events that unfold through this third issue and, in particular, the final page cliffhanger.
Beast Wagon No. 3 is available now at all good comic book stores. Go hunt it down.
Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn't know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at email@example.com. Or don't. You can also read his articles fairly frequently at www.bleedingcool.com too.