Wanderlust Blues is a title that immediately caught my attention, and even more importantly, kept it. And it did so in a weird way. This book has a fantastic aesthetic and a breakneck sense of exposition-free pacing that allows its readership to fly through its first two issues with almost no narrative drag. At the same time, however, that kind of reading experience - which owes its cut-to-the-quickness to its origins as a webcomic - also comes at the cost of a more fully defined world, which is especially important in a first and second issue. Luckily, and somewhat unusually for me, that eschewal of a deeper universe build didn’t hurt my enjoyment of Wanderlust Blues, which I definitely recommend checking out. Apparently set in the year 2143, its story takes place in a world beset by something called simply “The Corruption.” This, according to its website but not the comic itself, has forced the population into huddled, panicked masses of civilization. Outside of these clusters of Man is the wasteland, which acts as hunting grounds for creatures called Chimeras. Thrust within this dynamic are our series protagonists, the gruff-and-ready Raleigh and his adoptive daughter, Lavinia. It is in their interactions with this world and its Chimeras where the fun begins.
The first issue of Wanderlust Blues sees Raleigh and Lavinia, living out of their canvas-topped, horse-drawn wagon, and indefatigably pursued by a bloodlustful Chimera. It’s a chase story, essentially, as the pair try to shake the relentless beast, only to be forced into confronting it within the issue’s final pages.
The second issue, on the other hand, broadens the mythology of this world, introducing not only the idea that there can be (and indeed are) half-breed versions of humans and chimeras, but that one of our leads is just that. As such, this issue in particular shows both the hard and, thanks to a showcase of the kindness in strangers, the soft parts of this world.
Knowing that Wanderlust Blues started as a webcomic makes its format much easier to consume. However, if you were to jump headlong into this thing like it was just some other monthly book, you would be knee-deep in confusion. There is little-to-no exposition explaining the rules or setting of this world (or even when or where it takes place). That’s not to say you will be lost - it’s a pretty easy pick up-and-read affair, for all that - but the finer points that I described above are completely absent, which is a shame because it does add a nice layer of depth to the story.
As a writer, Quade is simple and unaffected, instilling in both his leads (and those around them in issue #2) an easy rural charm. He favors the spaces between words over too complex a dialogue, and in general keeps things relatively tight and very simple. His art, however, speaks volumes. His figure work has an almost all-ages feel to it -- thick lines that scratch out exaggerated, overly-large features -- but at the same time, giving off an atmosphere that is both gritty and grim in the style of a Western revival. This is especially true once the chimera make their appearances over the two issues: horrific, bloody and mutated things, conjured from a wood-cutting of some forgotten old west grimoire. It’s fantastic and grotesque and beautiful.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Quade’s coloring work on Wanderlust Blues, because it is exceptional stuff. There’s a grainy, muted quality he gives his pages here. As I mentioned, what easily could have careened into bright and poppy all-ages fare is kept grounded in a faded veneer, and a sensibly restrained palette that feels both weathered and timeless. It gives the book this amazing texture that really makes me want to own it as a hardback trade.
I was very impressed with Wanderlust Blues, though perhaps more in its aesthetic than anything else. Still, as an overall package, it was an entirely enjoyable experience. Don’t come to it expecting a fully-fleshed world or an infinitely-manicured backstory, but rather as a rough collection of fun ideas (further explored on the website linked to above) and an incredible showcase of artistic talent.
[button btn_url="" btn_color="violet" btn_size="large" btn_style="default" btn_outlined="no" link_target="self" link_rel="" icon_left="Score: 4/5" icon_right="Score: 4/5"]Score: 4/5[/button]
Wanderlust Blues #1 & 2 Writer/Artist: Sid R. Quade Publisher: 215 Ink Price: $2.99 Format: Digital