"Wildfire: Volume 1" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Top Cow Productions
Originally published as Wildfire #1 - #4
Written by Matt Hawkins
Illustrated by Linda Sejic
2014, 132 Pages
Trade paperback released on December 10th, 2014
With the amount of fast food and other preservatives I eat on a regular basis, I should probably know a little more about GMOs. Genetically Modified Organisms are a hot topic as of late, dealing with food specifically and how it's grown. There are pros and cons to it. Wildfire by writer Matt Hawkins and artist Linda Sejic takes a look at a horrifying possible consequence of GMOs gone wild.
On the surface, Wildfire comes across like anti-GMO propaganda (despite Hawkins saying the opposite in the “science classs” segment in the back of the book). He does present an argument from both sides, but there wouldn't be much of a story if everyone agreed and everything turned out OK. The comic shows what might happen if an untested genetically modified flower is suddenly introduced to the ecosystem of Los Angeles. The city is quickly overrun by this new and evolving flora to the point that it's nearly choked to death. It is turned into a dystopian society overnight.
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The book opens with a newscast showing a raging fire tearing apart sections of Los Angeles, leaving casualties and mountains of property damage in its wake. It then jumps back to show how everything escalated to that point, thanks to a single flower. This paints the story in a different light because you have this feeling of dread looming over these characters. They may have hope in their eyes as they perform their experiments, but you know that it's all going to go horribly wrong and some of them may not make it out alive.
This would normally be a bad thing, but Wildfire is a little light in the character development department. Scientist Dan Miller is the main focus of the story, but he's a bit of a wet rag. He rarely stands up for himself and just kind of mopes through life even when the shit starts hitting the fan. On the other end of the spectrum is reporter Michelle Crawford. She serves as the mouth piece explaining the situation to the public in an effort to get people to safety. We end up diving into her background a bit, showing how she's about to be upstaged by a younger, more attractive reporter. This didn't make me care any further for the character though. I didn't feel sorry for her or root for her at all.
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Artist Linda Sejic really captures the devastation throughout Wildfire. She says so much with her artwork, showing a decimated city street or a building engulfed in plantlife. What really stands out are some of the panel shapes. They're not your standard rectangles. Instead, they tend to flow with the story and location. For example, when two people are walking through the city, the panels are surrounded by branches and leaves, giving a claustrophobic feeling. When something alarming occurs, the panel appears to break around the edges, like a glass shattering. These are nice subtle effects that work very well.
The aforementioned “science class” pieces at the end of Wildfire add some context to the story. Hawkins backs up the events in the book with facts, showing how and why these things are happening. Granted, there are some major coincidences that help push the plot along, but it's good to see that there's actual science at work.
Wildfire is an aptly timed comic regarding a much debated topic in the news today. It’s definitely showcasing an absolute worst case scenario for GMOs, but it does provide some food for thought. It is just tough to care about some of the characters, so the human element doesn’t pack much of a punch.