A Review of the One-Shot comic book „Wander“ created by Lucy Freeman
Before we get to the meat and potatoes of the article, it’s instructive to explain away a few things. Namely, due to certain temporary health issues, the author of this article was forced to spend a lot of time in a lying position. As it were, there wasn’t a whole lot of opportunity to do any proper work, other than staring at the smartphone. And since I like to spend my downtime productively, I’ve decided to give the employment-based social media platform LinkedIn a nice, thorough once-over. After adding a few dozens of new connections and going over tons of posts, I’d noticed that I was still a part of the group called Comics and Graphic Novels. To all interested parties out there, this group gets regular updates from both established authors and independent creators, all regarding various projects they’re currently working on. It was in this group that I came across the adorable comic book by Lucy Freeman, a freelance artist from the United Kingdom. Of course, out of curiosity I’ve ordered the comic without as much as a second thought and, a month or so later, it was at my doorstep.
With its 36 pages (including both the front and back cover), this piece was incredibly easy to read, and though I finished it in a single sitting – multiple times in a row – I still feel like there’s quite a few bits of info to write about it. Oh, I intend to write about other comics promoted on the Comics and Graphic Novels LinkedIn group, but we’ll get to it. There’s plenty of time, we’re still young. Now, let’s get into the Wander.
The story takes place in two separate timelines. The first of those two is the present, where we see the light-heeled, shrewd female archer having a conversation with a tame deer doe. Though her name doesn’t appear in the comic itself, we know that the archer is called Phia and that her doe companion is Wren. Immediately we find out that the pair goes through life guided by something dubbed The Calling; reading the description of Wander on Lucy Freeman’s official website, we don’t actually learn what The Calling is, meaning that we have a neat little mystery on our hands.
Phia recollects her first meeting with Wren, when they were both much younger. As the archer was having a drink at a nearby water source, she noticed a group of tribal hunters named the Keepers running through the woods in order to get the game they were hunting. Sadly, the game in question was the mother of the still-young Wren. Enraged, Phia manages to take down two of the three hunters, letting the third one go free under the condition that they never meet again. From that day onward, Phia and Wren had been spending every waking minute together, and the comic ends with the two about to spend the night outdoors, underneath the starry sky.
As a story, Wander has many quality segments to it. Chiefly, there’s the ability of Freeman to tell a good story, and she manage to use a limited number of pages to present the reader with, strictly speaking, a small story. Considering the black-and-white art and the motifs of hunting and animals, this work to me bore a strong resemblance to Animosities, a comic book by Korina Hunjak, which I’ve also written about in the past. In other words, an indie comic through and through, with a color-free aesthetic, a female protagonist, and a plot that is self-contained, though there’s definitely room for a potential sequel. It’s worth pointing out that there is also some symbolism among the characters themselves. For instance, a wren, here used as the doe’s name, is a term for a species of small birds native to the majority of Eurasia. But if we take into account that Freeman is British, we should also stress that the term wren was once used as the nickname of the ladies comprising the Women’s Royal Naval Service, an all-female branch of the British Royal Navy active throughout the 20th of century, right up until 1993 when it was fully integrated into the Navy. Is Wren the doe really a tough, durable lady similar to the Wrens of the UK? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
Some story elements are a bit questionable, however, though they are mostly nitpicks. For example, a detail that caught my eye was the panel where Phia manages to stop a thrown ax mid-flight with a single fired arrow. Basic physics tells us that this would not be possible, i.e. that if an arrow and an ax were to meet mid-flight, the ax would continue on its trajectory, while the arrow would bounce back and end up on the ground. Freeman opted for this scene to show how precise of an archer Phia is, and that’s fine enough from a narrative standpoint, but it still sticks out as a moment that isn’t particularly logically sound.
Freeman’s art is fairly decent, though there are a few bits and bobs I’d like to see fleshed out. For instance, there are very few proper shadows. They’re there, sure enough, but they look a bit flat and even, without a lot of rawness and depth that one can see in shadows within a forest environment. Furthermore, the trees, the rocks, and other elements of nature at times remind the reader of slightly more detailed clipart. I assume that Freeman opted for this solution on purpose in order to have a more simplified artistic through line where the kinetics dictate the story, but I’d have personally preferred a bit of variety when it comes to the backgrounds. However, if there is one detail that stands out and ought to be commended, it’s the costumes of the characters, especially Phia’s. It’s evident that Freeman enjoyed creating these intricate uniforms, and if the story had been slightly longer, I have no doubt that we would have seen even more colorful and complex clothing items on a plethora of new characters.
Regarding the technical details, for a staple-bound comic printed in an A5 format, Wander looks amazing. There are a few tiny errors here and there, like a typo or two, but none so drastic as to ruin the flow of the story. It’s still a breezy read and manages to keep the reader’s attention, which is no small feat.
So, having taken all of the above into consideration, I highly recommend buying and reading Wander – you can order your copy directly from Lucy Freeman’s official website. And since you’re already clicking and paying a visit, make sure to check out her Instagram and ArtStation pages. High-end art like hers deserves attention, and I sincerely hope to see a sequel to Wander in the years to come. Judging by the final pages of this comic and the threads that Freeman purposefully left open-ended, something tells me that this sequel I yearn for will be coming soon.
Author: Ivan Veljković