There's been a few nice reviews lately! Here's another one by Scott Cederlund at Pop Syndicate.
Even if I can’t quite figure out if I’m supposed to like or despise the main character, Wasteland leaves you wanting more.
I’ll easily admit to being way behind on Wasteland. I’ve got both trade collections and need to sit down and read the whole thing from the beginning again. With that said, I enjoy the structure Antony Johnston has set up with the book, giving regular artist Christopher Mitten a break between arcs and writing a single-issue story for a guest artist. Issue #14 is one of those issues and features artwork by Joe Infurnari.
The character of Michael has been a mystery since the series began. A ruin runner (a cross between a drifter and a soldier), Michael is found in the wasteland, half dead, by a preacher and his guide. Father Wornn tries to show the stranger kindness and tries to help him while his guide Hami, familiar with the reputation of the ruin runners wants to leave Michael where they found him. Of course, a ruin runner knows a few more things about surviving in the wilderness so even as Father Wornn helps Michael, it’s Hami who is grateful and appreciative for the additional help. But when Wornn begins having visions of Michael as a demon, he may finally be realizing the truth about the ruin runner.
Johnston’s story is a fascinating look at Michael and the conflicting character he is. At various points during the issue, it’s easy to imagine Michael as either an angel or as a demon. Those classifications end up being too simple of classifications for Michael. He’s neither heavenly or from hell. Maybe the way we see him in the beginning, helpless and trapped by his environment, is more in tune with what Michael is. Maybe it’s enough to say that Michael is just a man and does just what he needs to in order to survive. And that’s really what Wasteland is about; survival.
Christopher Mitten’s artwork on this series has been a defining aspect of the title but Infurnari’s artwork is similar enough to Mitten’s while providing a whole new experience. Using tones and striplings, Infurnari produces a dry feeling book. It’s a dusty and dirty world in Wasteland and Infurnari gets that across in ways I’ve seen few comic artists able to accomplish. Mitten’s artwork produces the same effect though some minimalism. Infurnari puts a lot of ink on a page but he’s able to produce a barren feeling in his artwork that helps define the world.
As I said, I’m behind on my reading with this title but for this issue, it doesn’t matter. You can easily dive into this issue as it provides tone and texture for the whole series without being indecipherably tied into the other thirteen issues. And whether it’s about an anti-hero or a noble villain, Wasteland #14 provides a thrilling story about a conflicted character.
Wasteland #14 “Death Walks Behind You” Written by: Antony Johnston Drawn by: Joe Infurnari Lettered by: Douglas E. Sherwood
Thanks for the great review and thanks for reading Wasteland #14, Scott!
Fifty-five years after the Big Wet, Michael saunters into the city of Providens with some recently acquired supplies - itching to make a trade. In short order, he finds a shop keeper who is willing to trade for some cash, but would like to know how Michael came into possession of a bible. It’s a long story, of course, one Michael doesn’t share himself - but lucky us, we’re let in on the secret.
This issue of Wasteland is another in the series of flashbacks that serve as a break in between arcs of the larger story. The idea is to develop the world from a slightly different vantage point than we are used to, utilizing the skills of a guest artist to relate a story left untold about the lives of certain characters in the book. The last time we got an issue like this, Carla Speed McNeil - and in this one we get a story drawn by the talented Joe Infurnari - artist of another Oni Press book Borrowed Time, and a webcomic entitled “The Process”. The result, of course, is something that feels different than the stories writer Antony Johnston tells with Christopher Mitten, but reads just as well as the rest of the series.
While Johnston’s story is fantastic once more, detailing more moments of survival in the (quite literal) wasteland between towns and giving us a subtle call back to the very first issue of the series - the real surprise here was just how great the pages by Infurnari turned out. I expected big things, having been wowed by his art style before, but in this issue, he accomplishes something that very few in comics can do well - telling a sequential story in which there are little to no panel separations, and making it work. Not once is there a question of where the eye should flow, as the art naturally directs to the next event. In the same token, kudos to letterer Douglas E. Sherwood. Good letterers are often overlooked - mainly because when they are doing their job right, you don’t really notice bubble placement - and in this issue, a wrong placement really would’ve provided for chaos. He did a great job picking his spots, and helping lead the eye as well. Just a bang up job by all involved.
I do say this every time I review this book: you should be picking this one up. It’s one of the best books out there at the moment, and one of the few post-apocalyptic stories that didn’t make me want to dig out my own eye with a spoon - much to the credit of Johnston. Top notch as always.
One reviewer wrote that he didn’t like this comic because he can’t tell the characters apart. As long-time readers might remember, that’s a criticism I often have, although as Johnston gets deeper into his epic, it’s becoming easier to tell who’s who. But that shouldn’t be a problem with this issue, which, if you haven’t been reading Wasteland (and too bad for you!), is a good place to start. It’s an “in-between” issue, which means that Johnston tells a standalone story with guest art. Infurnari’s art is rough and gritty, which suits the desert setting of the issue nicely, and he completely eschews panels for most of the book, instead bleeding one scene into the next, which is all part of a story told as a flashback to a merchant in the town of “Providens” and which adds nicely to the mood.
The narrator is none other than Michael, the enigmatic ruin runner of the main story, and he had brought a laceless boot and a Bible to the merchant. When the man asks him where he got a Bible, Michael tells him the story of a priest and his guide crossing the desert on their way to Providens, and how he (Michael) fell in with them. It’s a nifty little tale of men overcoming or succumbing to prejudices, and ends with an ironic little twist. The problem I have with the story is that it relies on a stereotype to make its point. The priest acts pretty much how we would expect him to, and it’s a bit disappointing. The nice thing about the story is that we get to know more about Michael and his somewhat brutal past, which will doubtlessly come into play in the “present” of the book.
I encourage you give this issue a try, because it’s a good example of the world that Johnston has created, and although it’s not a perfect story, it still shows what kind of lives the people in the world live. These one-and-done stories that separate the main arcs are nice, because they allow you to get a good idea of what kind of book it is. And if you don’t like it, you’re not out a ton of money. But why on earth wouldn’t you like it? That’s just crazy!
Thanks a ton, Greg! Now what are you waiting for!? You heard the man, git out there and pick up a copy already!
This Wednesday, Wasteland #14 will be on sale at your local comic book shop! This book is a stand-alone story illustrated by me. If you've ever been curious about the world created by Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten, here's a great opportunity to get a taste without having to know the whole continuity so far. As always, the book features a great cover by artist, Ben Templesmith. Here's the synopsis for this issue:
When a mysterious stranger arrived in Providence it changed the lives of Doc, Abi, and the rest of the town forever... But that wasn't Michael’s first visit! Series writer Antony Johnston and Special Guest artist Joe Infurnari (BORROWED TIME) spin a tale from the ruin runner's past that holds hints of his future!
I had a blast doing this and I hope you pick yourself up a copy and enjoy a good read!
I recently finished all the art for the upcoming issue of the Wasteland #14. It was a real honor to have worked on such a great project and to be part of the team of Antony Johnston and Chris Mitten if only for one month. There's a new gallery of art from that book now available for your perusal in the comics section. Click the thumb to visit the site.