The Hunger and the Dusk #1
Hugo- and World Fantasy Award-winning writer G. Willow Wilson and all-star artist Chris Wildgoose invite readers to experience love on the brink of extinction in their new ongoing high fantasy tour de force! In a dying world, only humans and orcs remain-mortal enemies battling for territory and political advantage. But when a group of fearsome ancient humanoids known as the Vangol arrive from across the sea, the two struggling civilizations are forced into a fragile alliance to protect what they have built. As a gesture of his commitment to the cause-and to the relief of his bride-to-be, Faran Stoneback-the most powerful orc overlord, Troth Icemane, sends his beloved cousin Tara, a high-ranking young healer, to fight alongside brash human commander Callum Battlechild and his company of warriors. With a crisis looming, the success of this unlikely pair's partnership and the survival of their peoples will depend on their ability to unlearn a lifetime of antagonistic instincts toward one another... and rise above the sting of heartbreak.
High fantasy is a genre that feels boundless in the abstract but can be difficult to execute in reality. So much of the dressing around the genre feels chained to works like Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons, and World of Warcraft to name a few. Even these three touchstones echo off one another, and it can be difficult to make a new fantasy series seem fresh or unrestrained by what came before. A talented group of creatives can achieve this, and that’s exactly what IDW’s newest original series, The Hunger and the Dusk achieves.
The Hunger and the Dusk #1 features a script from G. Willow Wilson with art by Chris Wildgoose, colors from Msassyk with assistance by Diana Sousa, and lettering by Simon Bowland. The debut issue establishes the seeds of an apocalyptic invasion by ancient beings known as The Vangol. The beings have driven human and orc settlers alike from their homes and into new territories, creating two diasporas as an alternative to death. The first half of the issue shows the human perspective of the encroaching monsters, while the second half introduces the leads of the issue.
Orcs and humans alike must band together to ensure the survival of both species and an orc warrior seeks out one of the most loyal (and foolhardy) humans he’s ever met. The Last Men are a company of soldiers under the command of Callum Battlechild, requested by orc overlord Troth to protect his cousin and orc healer, Gruakhtar (Tara) Icemane. As the two meet under tense circumstances, while the humans and orcs form a union of people, tensions flare as Vangols attack.
Wilson’s script is a tight, lean introduction to the world of The Vanishing Lands, wasting no time in establishing the order and disorder of the societies that inhabit it. The issue never feels overwritten and strikes a balance in the delivery of exposition and emotion, ensuring that the characters are never lost to the world, and vice versa. Wilson proves that she can channel the sweeping, epic feel of high fantasy in her narrations. These are full of lyrical captions and carry a wistful quality that feels in line with works like Lord of the Rings.
It seems a little unfair that she can easily make the switch to more concrete, naturalistic diction when it comes to the dialogue between characters, playing up the charm while still grounding the emotion. Characters aren’t trapped under overly written dialects or spouting epic monologues, instead, Willow taps into a very conversational but still somewhat formal vein of language. The flirting feels genuine, the tit-for-tat between former enemies simmers with unresolved tension, and the references to the larger world feel organic to the characters. Much of this is thanks to Wilson’s resistance to the clichés and tropes of high fantasy, baking in strong character work by easing on heavy worldbuilding and dumps of exposition.
Much of the exposition and worldbuilding for The Vanishing Land is showcased through the art. The designs of clothing and weapons, the difference between warrior and farmer, and even remnants of culture tell the story of this world more organically than most opening crawls. It’s easy for fantasy works, especially in mediums like comics, to mirror Lord of the Rings and provide a monologue/voice-over that explains the lore needed. Instead, the visual language conveys most of what the reader needs to know, and the scripting fills in the gaps while also establishing tone.
Wildgoose’s art works in perfect harmony with Wilson’s script, infusing a better sense of the world through costuming, landscapes, and expressions. The linework on display is well suited for the blend of epic and modern sensibilities, relieving in sweeping looks at the countryside before switching to kinetic action beats. Wildgoose designs the action pages with harsh, thick vertical panels that evoke the motion of swords slashing and monsters leaping. This ensures the action feels just as concrete as the emotional work, and Wildgoose knows this thanks to the use of close-ups and reactions to carnage.
Some of the most stunning artwork in the book is not the swinging of swords or twisted anatomy of the Vangol but in the smaller moments between characters. A flippant remark paired with a reluctant smile, the look of fear in a warrior’s eye, or the treatment of wounded post-battle pop instantly, drawing the eye to the emotional core of a scene or beat. These are the moments where Wildgoose’s pencils stand out, grounding the fantasy trapping and rich design work in a rich, emotional experience.
The colors deployed by Msassyk bolsters every moment of the book, creating a full palette brimming with bloody reds of combat and violet embers of magic that move into the fading lights of day and the weary browns of a land at the brink. The colorscape on display feeds into the romantic tone of the book, while still feeling in line with the explosive action and horrors of the Vangol. The blend of bright and twilight hues ensures the look of this book feels unique and creates a fascinating dichotomy with the more natural blues and greens of the fantasy lands.
The Hunger and the Dusk #1 is a gorgeous debut that wastes no time in establishing its world and the characters that inhabit it. Wilson’s script makes the characters shine against the well-realized world that Wildgoose brings to the page, as both writing and art balances adventure with emotion. Msassyk takes the work even further thanks to the revelry in complementary colors of naturalistic lands and bombastic hues that come with vicious action and flashes of magic. This book should be a new standard for how to establish a fantasy setting in visual mediums and proves that fantasy, romance, and action are not mutually exclusive genres to play in.
The Hunger and the Dusk #1: The Orc, the Soldier and the Sexual Tension
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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