Feral & Foe (pkgd. w/ JD Meg #447) – Dan Abnett

2 out of 5

Up front: this is a fun series, and I’m looking forward to watching it shape up. But it does definitely need time to shape up – writer Dan Abnett and artist Richard Elson are each feeling out the tone – and this collection takes an additional knock in the ratings because I haven’t seen the floppies used like this before: as a “check out the upcoming trade!” sales pitch. I suppose that’s on me for making a judgement on completely supplemental material and letting it affect the rating, but the appeal, to me, of these Meg-bundled sets is to bring in odds and ends that we can’t otherwise read outside of their weekly / monthly publishings, and if this is just going to be re-collected as a trade, that seems like a wasted opportunity, and then if this material is not going to be in the trade… I dunno, that’s even weirder? But anyway: Feral and Foe is a solid average read at this point, slightly soured by my perceptions as related above. 

Outside of that, Dan Abnett is as imaginative as ever, putting together his odd couple warrior Wrath and mage Bode as enemies-of-the-state (in a fantastical, sword-and-sorcery type world) who’ve escaped their fate under the new rule by agreeing to work for the state as bounty hunters of a sort, pitting them against some of their former associates. Elson’s big and brawly art style presents some great designs and action, but he’s maybe not the best at the comedic pacing of the first arc, which is more akin to Dan’s SinDex-style banter. But the clutter of this arc isn’t all on the artist, as Dan really gets ahead of himself with world building, and can’t quite as seamlessly mix it into that jokey tone as he has with many of his other strips, always putting Feral and Foe on the backfoot, confusing the reader as to how “important” the story or characters are, or if it’s just a gag strip. 

Everything antes up really well in the second arc, though, with Elson backing off the digital colors a bit and letting his finer linework shine – a better, more raw look for the series – and Dan finds a much better balance for Wrath and Bode, not setting them up as a bickering couple, but instead advancing the relationship to a begrudged friendship or sorts, and relaxing on the constant banter . The humor is allowed to flow theough more naturally, and the story takes on greater stakes, as the duo are tasked to take down a Bigger Bad than they’d tackled before, and things feel more life and death substantial. 

…And while I’m against the “check out the trade to see how it ends!” cliffhanger, having arc 1 and 2 easily compared in this collection excites me for how much the series improved between the two, and does make me eager to see where we go from here.