Wild Children, written by Ales Kot with Riley Rossmo and Gregory Wright on art duties, is a strange book. It’s only 67 pages in the review PDF I was given, which probably means the story itself is about 60 pages - or the length of about three modern comic book issues. But since it was released as one book it has a very different narrative structure than a 3 issue mini-series. As I read the book my feelings oscillated. I loved it then hated it then loved it again. It messes with the reader’s mind in ways I have no experienced in commercially released comics before.
The book revolves around a group of students who call themselves Wild Children and who take over a school. They live-stream their takeover and also declare that it will be over by the end of the day. So it’s a pretty strange premise to start off - they can’t possibly believe that they will be forgiven just because they’re going to end their takeover by the end of the day.
The students then wax philosophical about the world and what they see as their place in it. It seems like a kid’s punk rock anthem and then it takes a strange turn. Around the middle of the book their lecture appeared to be both extremely pretentious coming from the works of these children as well as being almost so philosophical that at times I had to ask myself if Kot was perhaps not messing with the reader. The words the kids were speaking seemed almost to be more of a parody of the types of things kids believe at that age that make them feel as though they are so mature. And this was when I hated the book. It just seemed so arty and weird and I wasn’t getting the point of what Kot was trying to get across.
Right as Kot reached the peak of all that he was doing within the comic that seemed to exist simply to annoy and anger the reader, the narrative took a sharp turn and I was right back into the book. And the ending will have you asking yourself about what perception truly means. What is real? Are things real simply because we believe them? It’s a deep philosophical question that humanity has asked for thousands of years and I think it’s perfectly illustrated within the comic. I also think this is a book that would benefit from not only multiple read-throughs, but a discussion where I could learn more about the book by comparing the experiences of other readers to my own.
Should you pick up this book? It depends on what you like from your comics. This is definitely not your usual comic. There are no super heroes. It barely even follows the narrative structure of most indie comics. Think of it more as a short story that happens to be illustrated. You should also be the type of person who enjoys having to think about your comics. This is not a nice vacation from thinking - it’s the exact opposite of an action movie. I know I enjoyed it and I will definitely buy a physical copy.