The humans are gone, food is becoming scarce, and the chill of winter persists with an iron grip. A colony of house mice struggle to survive as they send scavengers to abandoned human homes in search of resources, risking the dangers of prowling cats, traps, and poison. When it seems like there’s not a scrap left to be found, news of a truck full of food provides some hope in a desperate time. But the truck sits just beyond the forest, which is full of predators that would easily overwhelm a small mouse. Despite the potential perils, Wix, the colony’s most gifted scavenger, goes to see if the reports are true, running headfirst towards a threat that seeks to consume all that it sees. Loyalties are broken, manipulations are revealed, and a mysterious prophecy waits to be fulfilled in this thrilling webcomic turned graphic novel.
Through the post-apocalyptic setting of Scurry, Mac Smith displays a world in chaos. Without a human presence, the once stable ecosystem is thrown into disarray with new predators moving in to take their place and the mice questioning if their previous dependence on them is still sustainable. There is a theme of adapting to survive, to move beyond the familiar, traditional ways in order to embrace new behaviors necessary for survival, yet this is only one conflict among many. Everywhere our characters go, danger is not too far behind, giving the readers a constant source of action as threats come from all sides, even from within the colony itself. Tying into the off-kilter environment, the weather itself poses extreme risks, as an overcast sky and oppressive rain lead to flooding and provide yet another way for predators to ensnare their prey. This surplus of obstacles never leaves the reader with a dull moment, as the true weight of Wix’s mission sets in.
With a full cast of characters fit for a true epic, Scurry holds an ensemble that readers will have no trouble latching on to, especially the animal lovers. Wix himself is an admirable protagonist, his tenacity and devotion to his colony apparent with each struggle he overcomes. His friend Pict, the daughter of the leader of the colony, matches his loyalty with a level-headedness and rationality that is much needed in times of crisis. The forest they navigate is home to other standout characters, such as the towering, but gentle moose Atlas, a trio of mysterious foxes that exude a vibe similar to the witches of Macbeth, and another colony of mice that have no trouble protecting their own. Creatures of every size and shape, whether they be furred, feathered, or scaled, make up the world of Scurry, giving it a touch of diversity beyond its mice leads.
The story is reminiscent of several featuring animals fighting for survival, most notably Watership Down, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and the Warriors series. Though naturally there are plenty of similarities and parallels between these stories, Scurry stands out through its human element, or the lack thereof. Empty houses and cars, forgotten garbage, and a crumbling, ravaged cityscape are constant reminders of the absence of humanity. Rather than reinforcing the nature vs. man motif, it instead incorporates nature vs. the consequences of man, turning the conflict less tangible than its predecessors. As a result, the direction of the comic feels fresh and adds a new perspective to the genre.
Amidst a somber setting trying to recover from human interference, Smith creates a stunning and rich atmosphere in his art. The opening scene is positively cinematic, as Wix and his rat friend, Umf, investigate a house that is graced with some rarely seen sunlight. A single beam of light stretches across the floor as dust motes hover in the air around them, the details ensnaring our attention and the desire to see more grows exponentially. Even when the light disappears later on, Smith commits to utilizing natural elements to highlight a scene, whether it’s the haze brought on by a rainstorm or a creeping, ominous fog. The environments are a clear highlight of the comic, not only in their beauty, but also the scope. Most of the visuals come from a mouse’s perspective, each location and creature appearing expansive and grand from their position. This only makes the presence of cats and wolves that much more intimidating, as they loom menacingly over the characters, with Smith ensuring that their ferocity is on clear display. Overall, the style carries a sense of realism, the animals looking more or less akin to their real life counterparts. Though this presents the issue of characters possibly having trouble with emoting visually, their designs prove to be incredibly expressive, with body posture helping a great deal in getting their emotions across.
Despite a good amount of violence in the comic, Scurry never presents it as especially gory other than the occasional gash, burn, or light spray of blood. Those already immersed in the genre of animal survival stories will find it on par with the likes of Warriors or The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, enough for a bit of tension but not too off-putting. The publisher has given it an 8+ rating, while also advertising the title towards middle grade audiences. Considering the amount of action, mystery, and similarity to other materials marketed for this age group, I find the rating appropriate. The graphic novel also comes with a reading guide, including lists of important themes and characters, discussion questions, and activities. Librarians and educators looking for immersive animal fiction titles with a host of key themes centering on nature, survival, and conflict should consider adding Scurry to their collections.
By Mac Smith
Image Skybound, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12 years
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)