It has been many, many days since I have been moved by a book so strongly that it compels me to recommend it—or wave it in front of people’s faces like a deranged maniac praising its awesomeness. I’m not really a man of moderation, so books either end up in a closet or enshrined in my office as the next Stunning Book of Amazingosity.
Sorry, Andy Weir, I will be dethroning Mark Watney’s adventures for the moment to pelt a very different tale at the people.
I have, quite literally, just closed the page of a graphic novel that I had never heard of until my local comic book store sent me an email blast of the trade paperback coming out some weeks ago. The email included the cover of the trade paperback and I was instantly intrigued. Whether it was the title or the image, I can’t really be sure. One was the hook, the other the swift jerk that sets the hook.
SQUARRIORS Volume 1
Squarriors is a comic book serial that centers around several clans of animals living in a world recently voided of humans. Since the demise of humanity, the remaining animal life have become intelligent. The spark of rational thought creates an internal struggle for these creatures; instinct versus reason. And the clashing of these ideas erupts into ultra-violent wars across the planet! – Amazon.com
For those not in the know, comics are generally released in issues and eventually collected in a trade paperback at the end of a story arc. Further, hunting down indie titles of graphic novels is a lot like hunting down a wild animal (no pun intended). You can check many stores and still come up hungry. Luckily, I did not have to suffer such a fate.
Once Upon a Time
SQUARRIORS is a book that instantly transported me back to a world of my youth that I fell in love with. The idea of animals behaving like—and frequently better than—human society is one that has fascinated me from the first time I tore through Watership Down. There’s something very interesting that happens when you use someone other than the reader to relate some human qualities: the reader sees them clearly.
In this case, tribes of animals have splintered off of each other following the spark of rational thought. What’s very interesting is that SQUARRIORS doesn’t take the easy route of pitting squirrels against foxes against cats against raccoons, in obvious species-wide alliances. Instead, the tribes of this world are splintered along philosophical lines. The Tin Kin group that a majority of the novel follows are made of mice, squirrels, crows, sugar gliders, and even a fox. They are bound not be species loyalty, but by the abiding belief in their way of life. The way of reason and compassion. The other groups are not so Jedi-like in their respect for other living creatures. It’s Lord of the Flies, folks.
Walk A Mile In Their Pawprints
What sets SQUARRIORS apart from the likes of Watership Down is that we follow several storylines and points of view rather than just our heroes. We follow the Tin Kin, but we also get glimpses of what lead to the world we’re exploring.
SQUARRIORS takes place after the human race has gone. Called The Creators throughout the novel, it’s not quite clear why animals have taken control of the planet. Humans are nowhere to be found. But like any good mystery, we get clues. Brief pages following a human family a decade before the main story give us some ideas about why the Earth is in rough shape. This is distinctly different from your Watership Downs, your Sights, and countless Disney films. We get to see what the human race did to the planet.
In the Eye of the Be-HOLY SHIT
Graphic novels differ from the novels that I write—if the name graphic novel doesn’t clue you in as to how, I can’t really help you. Put simply, I’ve read many, many books from many, many artists. Some lean more on story. Some lean more on the fact that ‘you know what Captain America looks like, it doesn’t matter how I show him to you now’. Others lean on the fact that they have dinosaurs. Auto-win.
SQUARRIORS doesn’t need to lean on anything to make you glance at the art. As much as the story pulls you in, the art drags you in. In reading it, I found myself pausing just to stare at the page. To note the minute differences between one squirrel and another. Coming from someone who shouldn’t admit that he spends a lot of time watching squirrels, this book does more than personify its animal characters. It makes you fall in love with them like you might your family dog. It makes you pity them like you might a child who has lost their parent. It makes you hate them like that damned groundhog that used to totally eat all the weeds in my yard, but he absolutely doesn’t anymore.
Come on, Morty. Get your shit together.
Sorry. Tangent. The point is, the art and story drive you to connect with animals in a way that will absolutely make you watch squirrels, chipmunks, crows, and lazy-ass groundhogs in a very different way.
So, in conclusion, you should have navigated away from this review by now. You should log on to Amazon, or your favorite indie bookstore, or run with mouth-foaming glee to your local comic book store and demand incoherently for this book!