Monday, November 2, 2015

Thirty Days of CCS #2: Sarah "Chu" Wilson

Sarah "Chu" Wilson (henceforth Chu) is a recent CCS grad, and this book represents a collection of stories in a furry sci-fi setting, where the dominant race is that of intelligent, mutant hyenas. This collection, The Junk Hyenas Diner Volume One, does a fine job of highlight her smooth, confident and expressive line. The book is a series of connected episodes concerning a warrior/scavenger with bionic parts named Lucky, her chef brother Guff, and her robot friend that she rebuilt named Bailey. Wilson smartly pairs world building in tandem with character building.

We learn that the world is in many respects in a post-apocalyptic state, with mutant creatures like electroslugs and unicorns popping up to menace the survivors. There's also a more poignant take on the concept of mutation, as in the first story when a gunman tries to rob Guff's diner. The gunman is deformed and laments that deformity, though Lucky reveals that she has her own genetic challenges. For her part, she's almost preternaturally cheerful and optimistic, as she sees life as a constant series of exciting challenges. Her ability to salvage anything and turn it into something useful is a metaphor for her own life, though it is revealed at the end of book one that the one thing she couldn't salvage was a relationship with her mother. Of interest in the story is that in the hyena society, women are considered to be the leaders and protectors of their tribes. It's a role that Lucky simultaneously embraces, as she loves to be a protector, but also ignores, as she and Guff are very much equals.

For his part, Guff acts as a kind of friendly grump, tolerating Lucky's happy-go-lucky behavior while trying to create the best cuisine possible. This means going out on scavenging adventures that nearly cost them their lives, or Lucky bringing home an egg that hatches a monstrous, venomous, two-headed duck. The introduction of Bailey the robot as a tabula rasa in terms of memory, allows Chu to have Lucky act as an information dump for both the robot and the reader. It's always done in the service of characterization, as she charmingly meanders her way through a conversation about her philosophy of life that reveals much about every character. Bailey also allows Lucky to explain to the reader some basics about their world. At the same time, Bailey is very much its own character, as it seeks to gain a sense of purpose and understanding of the world. All of this is framed around clear, funny and well-executed action sequences. While this work would probably look better in color, Chu is careful to be sparing with the use of grey-scaling. This allows her linework and character design (Bailey is an especially inspired creation) to stand out.

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