Where Animals Rule

Article by, Drew Van Genderen

Artist/Writer: Jen Lee

NoBrow Press is known for 3 things, original comics, children's books, and incredible customer service. On the comics front they release multiple one shots, each compelling and of a high production value, Vacancy being no exception. On this particular marvel, Jen Lee has joined the fold. You may have seen her illustrative work on the covers of Regular Show: Skips or Teen Dog. She has also created an animated webcomic known as Thunderpaw (thunderpaw.co/comic/) that is well worth a look. That's a tale for another time though, let's discuss Vacancy.

The world has been destroyed. Well perhaps not destroyed so much as... disheveled. The humans that were once around? All gone. Simon, a loyal dog, doesn't wish to believe that. He spends his days in his dog house with a fence separating him from the rest of existence, hoping his owner's will return. One day, as he is wandering his small space, he notices a raccoon named Cliff and a deer named Reynard on the other side of the fence. Before he knows it, his world becomes much bigger, and he finds himself questioning whether or not he truly has a place in it.

Jen Lee presents a story of comradery and coming of age (though only for a brief period) told through a post apocalyptic lens. As the characters interact with this planet that nature once again rules, they run into other creatures. Whether the speaking character is a deer, raccoon, dog, or anything else, Lee has provided voices perfectly associated with each species. Everyone has appropriately given into their basic urges/animal instincts, and that results in the characters that are understandable to the reader. As Simon traverses the woods outside of his owner's home, the situations he finds himself in displays the strengths of both domesticated and wild animals. More than that, these 3 unlikely characters become fast friends, and in the dangerous woods you find yourself constantly worried yet hopeful that they will survive the experience.

The writing in this story is great, the story is easy to understand but nonetheless engaging. That being said, the art in this book is almost more of a draw. Every panel is absolutely flawless. All of the animals walk through the shadows of human civilization, using decrepit architecture and old trash as food and shelter, escaping threats by ducking through old neighborhoods. The woods are sprawling, and seemingly endless, adding to Simon's feelings of unease. Each character is more anthropomorphic than simply animalistic. They all walk primarily on two legs, and have distinctive outfits each very detailed and indicative of current fashions. What does that mean for the reader? Some truly incredible action sequences and models, as well as more relatable characters. Setting tone in this story, almost moreso than the shattered world, is the color scheme. With sepia tones pronouncing the day and vibrant oranges during the twilight, this visual, atmospheric masterpiece is tied together.

Vacancy is a one shot tale, with a resolution that is worth the journey and striking imagery to match. The webcomic I mentioned earlier, Thunderpaw, has a very similar feel and with Jen Lee at the helm as well, it's worth a look. If you are a fan of illustration, post apocalyptic tales, or entirely out of the box adventures, then this is absolutely for you. Plus, it's only $5.95.

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