Feral & Foe

Feral & Foe
Feral & Foe review
  • UK publisher / ISBN: 2000AD - 978-1-78618-773-4
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2023
  • UPC: 9781786187734
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Fantasy, Humour

As noted in his introduction, Dan Abnett has enjoyed a long and creatively successful partnership with Richard Elson on strips for 2000AD. Their previous Kingdom was fantasy in a post-apocalyptic setting, and for Feral & Foe Elson wanted to illustrate more straightforward fantasy. The problem for Abnett was how to avoid standard fantasy clichés, and the solution he came up with was to focus on what happens to the bad guys once the good guys have won the war. The title comes from the legal definition applied to them.

Abnett and Elson begin with Bode and Wrath bemoaning the passing of the good times as they’ve been caught and are about to be put to death by Huntsinger the Wretchfinder. “Burning or hanging?”, he asks. “Your lucky day”, he notes, “it’s both”. Jokes, and explanations are deftly weaved into an opening chapter that also closes off a couple of obvious avenues of escape. It’s tidy, professional and attention-grabbing with Elson designing an effectively gloomy world and two contrasting lead characters.

Next up is a villain surely based on Ray Winstone (in any role), copiously swearing in the Irish manner of vowel replacement, and a neat twist on the idea of a tank as Bode and Wrath become bounty hunters. Abnett ensures both lead characters are flawed beyond being morally capable of working for the bad guys, and that they’re caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to survival, so at least moral ambivalence is practical. He’s true to his introductory word in serving up what’s expected from fantasy, but twisting it unexpectedly, and the characters prove a delight. Humour is frequent, but not in a way that will alienate fantasy fans.

Elson is also on top form, seriously enjoying himself with the situations and coming up with better and better designs the deeper into Feral & Foe we drop. He’s always been good at creating a brute, and there are some corkers here.

Feral & Foe contains the first two stories as serialised in 2000AD, and the hilarious way Abnett segues between the two is pure genius exploitation of the suspense created. When he drops his big surprise the admiration grows, and so does the cast. After all, since the strip’s title features descriptions (legally binding, you know), not names, Abnett supplies himself with a broad remit to explore a world of nasties.

It’s often the case that despite all the work put into creating a strip, the better days are somewhere down the line when the creators have come to terms with the characters, the location and their potential. If that’s the case for Feral & Foe we’re in for a treat. And the back of the book reminds you just how many other fine 2000AD series Abnett is responsible for (see recommendations).