Comic Review: Animal Castle TPB (Ablaze Publishing)

The first arc of Ablaze’s Animal Castle is now collected in hardcover form, giving us a much broader ‘meadow of study’ into this compelling comic title. Writer Xavier Dorison (Red […]

The first arc of Ablaze’s Animal Castle is now collected in hardcover form, giving us a much broader ‘meadow of study’ into this compelling comic title.

Writer Xavier Dorison (Red One, Long John Silver, Asgard, etc) and artist Felix Delep (Miss Bengalor, etc) present this story of malicious compliance, resistance, and keeping a ’stiff-upper-beak’ in the land of the imprisoned.

You see, four-legged President Silvio rules a deserted castle, with the help of a team of vicious dogs. It’s a lot of bull, to be sure. The higher-ups live like kings on the hard labour of the little worker animals. Their harvests are bartered away for caviar and a carefree existence for the chosen few.

It’s enough to drive the workers quacking mad!!

Xavier Dorison writes of the obvious parallels between the upper and lower class animal society and our human struggles. The writer combines Ghandi-like philosophies with rantings of a military bullpen. The dialogue (translation by Ivanka Hahnenberger) is full of character, stuffed with rantings and speeches. The conversations and arguments go a long way to convey the animals’ deep frustration against mean mistreatment, against the dogged junkyard attitudes.

Artist Felix Delep conjures up flocks of facial expressions, fluid and languid cat movements, the seasonal earth tones, and superb panel compositions. Deep surpasses our usual expectation for ‘chatty animal stories’. This is not a Merrie Melodies cartoon. Animal Castle is a grimey world, a saga filled with slaughter. It’s stuffed full of orchestrated cruelty and barks and bites. Delep takes us into a candlelit sleeping corner, a slippery roof, a sleepless night here, an early morning snowstorm there. There is blood on the saddle, and the corral ain’t no place for a young’in.

Okay, the story runs long, and the tight tension throughout can make a reader sad and reflective. There are no panels off for good behaviour, no starlit country fairs. It’s a bleak house, both visually and mentally, as we traipse alongside a determined band of animals, sick, anemic and fuzzy of mind.

Tom Napolitano’s letters vary in size, based presumably on the amount of space available in the panel. So: loads of room for lettering? Larger font size. Squeezed for space? Smaller font size. Alas, this can get distracting to the reader.

It’s the first five issues of the saga of the animals of the castle. The wooden stakes are high and the pressure is on. Neither side wants to back down, and concessions are few. This book is powerful, hand-drawn, dramatic as heck, touching, and emotional.

Ablaze Publications, Animal Castle Hardcover trade
$24.99 for 127 pages of content. Teen 16+

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!