There are a only few comic companies here that do what many startups here don’t initially aim to do: appeal to a more younger audience and make comics for children.
As Ireland still has a comparatively small comics industry, there is more room given to experimentation, imitation, and more personal (often adult) works, but there are a couple of companies who have their feet on the ground when creating books for kids – prime examples being O’ Brien Press, who recently published Celtic Warrior (which I reviewed here) alongside the Death By Murder series by Alan Nolan, and Comicí Gael who publish Irish-language comics for younger readers.
There is however an independent company who are doing the exact same thing with their library of works, and may be on to a couple of winning formulas here. Button Press Publications have come forth and brought us their collected flagship title The Wren, as well as their new comic Artos, as prime examples. Both series are suitable for all ages, and have dived into the kid’s market with confidence and mirth. The Wren is now available as two volumes and the gist of the plot goes as such:
Jack McCormack is The Wren, more accurately the heroic alter ego he hides from his bookish friends Sam and Meggan, who is learning how to harness his emerging superpowers. Jack lives in the city of
Dublin Dubh-Lynn with his adoptive father Dr. David ‘Gramps’ McCormack, and is a huge fan of Ireland Hibernia’s superhero team The Flying Column. When Jack came of age, Gramps revealed to him that he is the son of one of the Flying Column’s members, and inherited a Blood Gift from her (the genetic source of his powers). Jack immediately begins training with the heroine Weaver, and dealing with grotesque toads and demolition-happy giants summoned by a warlock called Amerg and his underling Rook. Though he prefers to use his new powers and kick some ass, Jack is pestered to do his homework instead, but he uses this time to find out where his mother went and encountering other members of the Flying Column along the way.
The Wren has a great premise going for it and has a slick presentation, but one can see from both volumes where the awkward parts have since been filed away and neatened up with experience (examples being inking, lettering and so on). There are still a couple of persistent things The Wren needs to fix, and they are not difficult to sort out.
While the art is nice and the designs are broad and fresh, there are a few technical errors in some of the panels – the more obvious ones being weirdly squashed panels, rendering the proportions of characters to stick thin figures with peanut shaped heads, regardless to how rounded they looked the page before. Most of this gets worked out by the second volume, however, leading me to believe there’s some digital as opposed to art skills to sort out (some of the adverts inside the volumes look squished and have noticeable JPEG compression). The characters and backgrounds greatly improve in the later episodes, looking more illustrative and with more balanced inking and stylisation.
The script is cute and retains a bright tone throughout. The lettering in volume one is gaudy and confusing at times, happily another fault worked out. There are also some grammatical errors that slip in (your instead of you’re) but these are few and far between,and again still could be easily worked out at the script or lettering stages.
The Wren is a fine example of a series and a lesson actively working out the editorial kinks over time to make it a finished enjoyable product. More importantly, I really do want to see what happens next to Jack and his friends, as he continues to fight evil in Dubh-Lynn, and discover the circumstances around his birth mother’s disappearance. It’s not a completely polished series as a whole (yet), but the progress made by Button Press, and their overall vision, is amazing. Worthy of your time, and definitely get it for the kids.