Review by Hailey Austin
The survivors of Lower Crowchurch’s alien invasion return in Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard’s second installment of Wild’s End, The Enemy Within. Picking up where First Light left off, the volume follows the villagers through their imprisonment and subsequent interrogation as the military tries to come to grips with “the incident.” Tensions run high as Clive, Susan, and the gang are held for questioning for weeks on end, unable to locate other survivors or tell the world about the alien invasion. The military calls in experts to determine what actually happened in the village and whether or not the prisoners are conspiring with the alleged alien forces. Unfortunately, the closest things they have to experts are science fiction writers who can speculate as to the validity of the prisoners’ testimonies. Susan Peardew faces off against her ex-husband and Clive leads a daring escape. Fawkes and Alphie find the original crash site and discover appalling truths about the alien invaders. Minks and Susan steal a car and rush to a neighbouring village to release their information to the press, discovering just how far the lampposts have gone.
Like First Light, The Enemy Within’s characterisation and storytelling make it an exceptional graphic novel. It blends action and horror, concerning itself less with the excitement of an alien invasion and more on how the horror of an invasion affects the characters’ psyches. The ends of the chapters in The Enemy Within shed light on the mental well-being of different characters, with journal entries from Susan and Minks as well as documents that reveal a large-scale government conspiracy. Abnett wonderfully captures the single-mindedness of the military and government in their constant use of the phrase “national security” to justify the detainment and mistreatment of the prisoners as well as their attempts to cover everything up. It’s very reall world, in fact. Techniques like these draw the reader into this realistic, yet animal storyworld and invest them in the drama and action of the once sleepy, small English village. Culbard’s storybook style art captures the sorrow the invasion has brought the survivors while also creating unbearable tension in the action scenes, and more scenes set at night highlight the magnificent colouring. Culbard expands his simple palette, adding a horrific intensity to the alien invaders’ burning fire.
Abnett and Culbard are obviously masters of their crafts, making First Light and The Enemy Within must read graphic novels. A combination of complex characterisation, high octane action, and beautiful art, results in unforgettable characters reacting to a classic situation in a brand new way. Sequels often struggle to maintain the suspense of the original, but Abnett and Culbard keep the reader glued on the edge of their seat. The action continues in Journey’s End. Until its release, stay away from lampposts!