Which is worse? The apocalypse itself or life after the apocalypse? In Farel Dalrymple’s The Wrenchies, tragic hero Sherwood experiences both. At the start of the story, Sherwood is a teen adventurer in a fantasy world, battling demons and voyaging through outer space. When he becomes an adult, however, Sherwood’s perilous escapades starts to wear on him, and his outlook turns grim. His depression makes him vulnerable to the mysterious and malevolent Shadowsmen. These soul-eating monsters from another dimension turn Sherwood into a living portal, allowing them to invade Earth and kill every adult on the planet.
After the apocalypse, the reader is introduced to the Wrenchies, a group of battle-hardened children who know that when they reach adolescence, the Shadowsmen will come for them. Undaunted, they mount a quest to defeat the Shadowsmen.
In The Wrenchies, Dalrymple has created a world that’s vivid, visceral, and whimsical. The art is both grotesque and naturalistic, crammed full of grimy details and popping with bright colors that create the air of a nightmarish carnival. There are layers of complex narrative in this dense book. Particularly interesting is the way the narrative returns again and again to Sherwood’s origin story, varying it each time to explore how shaky memories of trauma can be.
The Wrenchies also functions an extended metaphor for the turbulence of growing up. If the Shadowsmen are a symbol of impending adulthood (sucking the imaginative life force out of their victims), then the Wrenchies are a symbol of healing and redemption. They represent the hopefulness of youth, and their perseverance is a metaphor for accepting and adapting to adulthood.
Rob Clough writes about comics for The Comics Journal, Study Group Magazine, Infinity, and his own blog, High-Low (highlowcomics.blogspot.com). He lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife, daughter, and two cats.
© 2014 by Rob Clough