After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Squarrior Invasion has begun. Is it good?
Squarriors #1 (Team Ash/Devil’s Due Entertainment)
The book opens with a brief, bewildering, and brutal recap of man’s final days ruling the earth. A decade later, woodland creatures have taken over the lands once ruled by ‘the creators’ (or at least what we can see). At first glance, these aren’t anamorphic creatures—just the same old squirrels, cats, foxes, and crows that we know today.
But the passage of time and a different viewpoint shows us that various societies based on survival, communication, and conflict have taken over. The one we currently see involves a territorial dispute between the Tin Kin and the Maw clans.
But don’t think all that stuff about squirrels and other fuzzy animals means you’re in for some type of adorable slap fight. This conflict is bloody as hell. It’s nature’s most unforgiving aspects combined with the ruthless politics of war.
Remember when your mom said not to play with squirrels because they had rabies? SHE WAS RIGHT!
There are also some hints that we will find out what wiped out the humans, but that’s not nearly as interesting as the battle to come.
Is It Good?
As far as the story goes, there’s nothing very new or inventive here, but it’s all very well done. The novelty of Squarriors is in the setting, although there’s a hint of more beneath the surface that could be really interesting.
The characters are also a bit underdeveloped. They began to show distinct personality traits and motivations by issue’s end, but not as much as you would hope in a book that puts the reader in the middle of a war.
I also need to make a rare ‘technical’ critique on this one (so bear with me after some effusive praise). I have a great deal of respect for people who develop their own books on Kickstarter. It’s a massive undertaking that deserves quite a bit of admiration for those who manage to pull it off, even if the project doesn’t turn out to be A-list quality.
This book, however, is easily in the A-list realm. The artwork by Ashley Witter is breathtaking. That’s not hyperbole, by the way—she makes every single page look like a frameable piece of artwork. Witter isn’t just drawing detailed portraits, though. She is also a top notch storyteller, giving us plenty of kinetic energy and emotion in every panel.
I knocked the story earlier for being a bit derivative, but writer Ash Maczko isn’t hacking his way through it, either. This may be basic tribal warfare story, but it’s also a damn good one so far. Add in the overarching hook about how the world’s human population was wiped, and we’ve got a very well-crafted opening chapter.
But while the production values are on par with the best books on the stands, the delivery of the project was not. For starters, the book went on sale before Kickstarter backers (myself included) got their issues. Part of the reason we were willing to pay a premium for the book ($10.00) before it goes on sale to the general public for half the price is to get it early. Yes, it’s cool that the our copies will be autographed, but some of the luster gets taken off of it when the people who helped to actually fund the project don’t get to see the results first.
The digital version was also late (yikes), although Team Ash/Devil’s Due Entertainment fixed that immediately…sort of.
It could have been just me, but the PDF file we were sent (after a profuse apology from the creators) looked terrible on my mobile reading device. The panels were so dark that much of Witter’s beautiful artwork was lost. The lettering also suffered a great deal, making a lot of the dialogue hard to see and the letter page in the back completely unreadable.
Luckily, the book still showed up fine on my laptop, where I scrolled through a much more clean and crisp looking copy. I’ve had trouble transferring files from my laptop to iPad before, but never with such a large denigration of quality in the digital file. I guess the issue could have still been on my end, but it also could have been a result of how hastily the PDF file was thrown up after its absence was noted in the project’s Kickstarter comments section.
It’s a shame all of that happened, because from a creative standpoint, Squarriors is a top notch book. Let’s hope that the second issue continues the same trend minus the mistakes and headaches.
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