Of fur and metal
THIS is a book about the aftermath of a long war, in a world of constant winter. An intelligence spy from the Resistance – the rabbit, Hardin, steals secret information from a military base of the Regime …
Wait a minute, a rabbit? What is this, Brer Rabbit the Super Spy? Bugs Bunny Undercover?
With its talking rabbits, goats, tigers, crows and foxes, Iron, Or The War After may seem like something out of an Enid Blyton book, but writer/ artist Shane-Michael Vidaurri’s debut graphic novel is anything but childish.
It is a sombre and serious look at two sides in a conflict, a brooding look at war, honour, betrayal and death.
The book itself is a treasure to behold – beautifully bound in a red cloth cover, lovingly hugging page after page of gorgeous, soft, watercolour artwork. Every page seems like a piece of art in itself, and Vidaurri uses a mostly greyish-blue colour palette to portray the general sombre mood of the story.
Vidaurri’s official biography states that he received a BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts, and that his work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and publications, including WIN magazine, The Indypendent, and Powerpop Comics. Most tellingly of all, it also tells us that his New Jersey apartment is “filled with many animals”.
Whether those animals in his home were instrumental in his decision to make Iron an anthropomorphic tale remains unknown, but it was an inspired choice of medium for this story. His “good guys” are mainly portrayed by the more timid and least threatening creatures – rabbits, goats, and so on; while the antagonists comprise tigers, lions and ravens, animals that we perceive to be a lot more aggressive and hence, “bad”.
But there is more to this tale than rabbit versus tiger, carnivore versus herbivore, or good versus evil. At first, Vidaurri’s use of animals as his characters gave me the impression that he was looking to portray each character’s personality according to the corresponding animal, but his characters are anything but animalistic. In fact, they seemed even more … human than some actual people portrayed in other books.
In an interview with The Morton Report, Vidaurri describes Iron as “The Wind In The Willows meets All Quiet On The Western Front”, and it’s not hard to see why. While there are one or two more action-oriented setpieces here, the main focus of Iron is on the characters’ reactions and mental states as they struggle with the consequences and effects of being at war.
While a little depressing at times, Iron is nevertheless a fine debut by Vidaurri, and has the look and feel of a real labour of love. Just don’t expect the rabbits to start munching carrots and asking, “What’s up, doc?” – Michael Cheang
The anthropomorphic characters in Iron are anything but animalistic.