This review refers to the hardbound trade which comprises the first five issues of Animal Castle. It’s marked volume 1 and it is a handsome volume, indeed! I read the first five issues as the individual comics, through my subscription at my favorite comics pusher, so I was curious to see what the compiled edition looked like. This glossy library bound edition shows the richly painted art from the first comic cover and includes a preamble by the author, all the variant covers, and lots of bonus material displaying the original pencils and thumbnails. The cover art wraps around to the back side. It should hold up to many circulations.
This storyline is essentially Orwell’s Animal Farm, yes, but updated and retold in a new chilling way, putting a wider variety of animals in the different roles, and exploring more intimately what each character has to give up to change their brutal conditions. The dictator and general for life, Silvio, is a corpulent shaggy bull with googly stern eyes, Texas Longhorn-type horns, a protruding lip, and large jowls that somehow seem familiar. His hench-dogs are slobbery, idiotic, and brutal, and are rendered in Felix Delep’s lanky whispy pencils. All the animals have amazingly human expressions, and it’s easy to empathize with each. Indeed, many of the scenes are heartbreaking.
The story revolves around a starving young mama cat named Miss Bengalore and her attempts to organize the Castle against the brutality of Silvio’s reign. The Hindi-sounding name is not a coincidence, as she’s shown early in the book what happens to those who speak up and riot. She has all she can handle with her three kittens and her forced work hauling stones all day to Silvio’s commanded building of a wall fortress, but, one night, she sees an old gray rat, a traveling storyteller named Azelar, do a performance about, “a little man, a fakir who fights against a king and an empire….” Is Azelar’s appearance a coincidence? Or does he have more to teach the Castle animals? When the old rat is injured trying to escape the guard hounds, Miss B. rescues him. Can he convince Miss B. and the other animals to work towards a better life away from Silvio’s grasp?
The story pacing kept my interest and the colors are muted and appropriate for a difficult story like this. The lettering is very small, so I needed my cheaters to read it. Even though this story is based on Animal Farm, this is not a story for middle graders. There is considerable violence as well as adult situations, even though those are animal-portrayed adult situations. In a country where some try to ban mouse-nakedness, librarians should be aware that this comic discusses very hard political issues, and the brutality is explicitly portrayed. I suggest putting this title either in the adult area or young adult.
Animal Castle, vol. 1 Vol. 1
By Xavier Dorison
Art by Felix Delep
Publisher Age Rating: 16+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)