Beast Wagon has returned. If you read the first issue then you know that Beast Wagon is something extremely different, but also a shining example of the comic medium at its best. The backdrop for the story is a zoo. In this world we visit the perspective of the animals, but then also the humans. Some of the animals have accepted their captivity, while others are preparing to rage against the machine. What’s pretty brilliant about Beast Wagon is that makes all kinds of social commentary. Every group of animals seems to have different commentary attached to it. For instance, the hippos are commentary on domestic violence and rape. It’s an uncomfortable scene to read because as the reader we’re the only ones that can understand both humans and animals. In the case of gorillas, we see an overlap of domestic abuse, but this time tied to gender roles in society. When the female trainer strikes the male silver back for not “being a man”, it becomes painfully clear what their relationship is composed of…. Abuse, both physical and mental.
There are more light-hearted moments. Basically anything involving the monkeys is less serious and there for a good break from the very serious subject matter listed above. That’s when the story shifts to almost a religious/political climate. Our leader Baboon has a “vision” and decides that the man that’s forced to dress as an animal and paint the faces of children, must die. Another monkey stands up for the man thus challenging “god’s vision” and placing himself in the crosshairs of the baboon leader. There is some classic manipulation/cult mindset at play.
To top it off, the entire book is commentary about zoos and keeping animals in captivity. Reading this book, you kind of admit to yourself that humans make mistakes and that means that people who work at a zoo are bound to make mistakes which is just unfortunate. It’s commentary that makes you think rather than just rush off to the zoo the next time a baby animal is born.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, Owen Michael Johnson’s writing is sharp. The only problem with it is that I’m still not 100% sure what the main story is about. I get that we’re seeing the perspective of humans and animals, but to what end? The social commentary needs a purpose otherwise it gets lost in the end. I have a feeling there is something else at play, but we’ll have to see what comes of the next issue. Even with this lack of info, the issue is very enjoyable. It’s also mature and while it doesn’t seem serious while dealing with some of the subject matters of life, it is imitating life in that manner.
The art from John Pearson is always a treat. It’s photorealistic, but the coloring makes it very distinct and unique. It honestly changes the entire presentation of the story. What makes this story work is that the art is serious. It’s not cartoonish, the animals aren’t stiff or anthropomorphic, they’re just real animals with word bubbles that only we can read. Seeing a baboon throw up after getting high, that’s funny shit. It’s only funny because it looks like a real baboon throwing up. The attention to realism is what makes Pearson’s artwork stand out on this series.
If you’re at Thought Bubble, then you should grab this issue if you’re caught up on the series. If you’re not, then grab both. Sure the plot is still a bit hazy at the moment, but it’s a curious series that has plenty to offer. As far as indies go, this book reads, looks and stands out as a polished professional work.
Beast Wagon #2 Writer: Owen Michael Johnson Artist: John Pearson Publisher: Changeling Studios Price: £2.99 Website