Week of Sunday, April 17
Created by Swifty Lang, Michael Lapinski and Chris Mangun
Written by Swifty Lang
Illustration and Covers by Michael Lapinski
Reviewed by Kate Sherrod
Somewhere in the supply chain between Lang & Lapinski and my quivering little hands, things got funky, so I had a long, long wait between Issue #1 of this very unusual comic and this week, when Issues 2, 3 and 4 all landed in my drawer at my Friendly Local Comics Store (Cheyenne, WY’s Heroes Only – heroesonly.net – give them some love). So while I should focus on Issue 4 as I’ve said above, it’s the general impression created by all three of these latest issues at once that’s probably really informing this week’s choice.
As you can see from the cover art, this is a most unusual comic, visually very deeply informed by Mexican folk art (the prior issue’s cover featured a skull straight out of Dia de los Muertes iconography) and story-wise, straight out of today’s headlines, if the newspaper you’re looking at happens to be from Arizona or New Mexico.
There’s a lot going on in Feeding Ground, and most of it is very dramatic indeed. I suspect that a lot of people may have tossed this one aside after the first issue, which felt a lot like a set of story boards for a telenovela about a virtuous Mexican family on the ropes and contemplating the drastic step of migrating illegally to the United States. The only obvious wrinkle was that the paterfamilias has been making his living as a coyote – one who smuggles other desperate Mexicans over the border and through the awful desert badlands through which it passes.
But there is a lot more than just that going on! Like the very reason the Busqueda clan is in such dire straits: an unscrupulous company, Blackwell, is conducting experiments that have caused famine – and a plague of monsters – in the land. And before long, this state of affairs comes to affect the Busquedas directly, when their daughter, Flaca, follows daddy on his “last run” and runs afoul of something terrible. Little Flaca is about to join Blackwell’s many other terrible test subjects into a genetically engineered werewolf!
From this terrible moment onwards, the family is desperate and on the run, not only from Blackwell, keenly interested in the only human female ever to survive the transformation (and concerned terribly about the deterioration of its stock; these werewolves are mutating!), but also by the U.S. Border Patrol and the Patrol’s self-appointed auxiliary, the Minutemen, who chiefly seem to occupy themselves with destroying all of the secret caches of water and food that have been left by kinder souls to help migrants survive in the desert, but also, in this bizarre alternate Arizona, seem to moonlight as werewolf hunters out for a trophy — like, maybe, the world’s one and only little girl werewolf.
A lot of other reviewers have complained a bit about the art, which as I’ve said is very stylized and folksy. Chiefly, I think, people dislike the look of the werewolves, who even I have to agree tend to look a lot of the time more like angry baboons than the classic werewolf archetype we know and love. That may well be the point, though; as I mentioned above, these are mutant werewolves, and that’s a pretty cool idea if you ask me!
And, well, just look at this – a specimen that didn’t quite make the transformation. Tell me you don’t want to see more of this insanity:
Nor is that all this comic has to offer, for each issue is actually a bilingual flip book: turn it over and open its pages again and you can read the same comic in Spanish. Now, there are lots of ways to learn or brush up on a foreign language, but how many of them feature mutant werewolves, to say nothing of such pointed commentary on the current socio-political questions that prevail along the Mexican border (in one hilarious sequence, the Busquedas, who have been walking along the famous and controversial Wall, come to where it simply and abruptly stops in the middle of nowhere, unguarded, and just walk around.
“Some empire,” one quips. “The Chinese at least finished putting up their wall.”
As Issue 4 comes to its close, the Minutemen, the Border Patrol and Blackwell are all closing in on the poor Busquedas, who are just really coming to grips to what it means to have a monster in the family. There are two more issues to come and I, for one, can’t wait to get them.
But given what happened with my getting 2, 3 and 4, I shall probably have to.