The second volume of Max de Radigués’ tale of two teenage castaways sees our heroes on a fresh island and looking to fight off a pack of hungry wolves in order to survive in Stig and Tilde: Leader of the Pack, coming soon from Nobrow Press.
Publisher: Nobrow Press
Writer: Max de Radigués
Artist: Max de Radigués
Price: £9.99 from Nobrow
The world of Stig and Tilde is the kind that can only really exist in a work of fiction. These plucky teens are sent off by their parents for their ‘kulku’ – a traditional rite of passage that sees the youngsters of their non-specific Scandi town required to spend a bit of time being self sufficient in the wilderness. In the modern world, this would never happen due to parental neuroticism and health and safety, yet in the nostalgic/idealised world of de Radigués’ story it all makes perfect sense to let kids go off in a boat on their own for weeks at a time!!
While you are required to make this leap of faith as a reader, what it does allow, is room for de Radigués to tell his story of two twins fending for themselves on various islands. There is enough peril that you want them to survive and return home as quickly as possible, but there is not so much tragedy that it bogs down the story and makes it maudlin or too angsty. After successfully evading the attentions of ‘lunatic poltergeist’ Arne in volume 1 – ‘Vanisher’s island’, they have repaired their broken boat and manage to limp on to the next island where they are set upon by some wolves and also meet an enigmatic hermit.
We are perhaps over analysing the concept of Stig and Tilde a bit too much at this point, as once you get over that minor issue, this is one of those series that is utterly charming and completely absorbing in every respect. The story is gloriously told, meandering from one exploit to the other, while at the same time referring back to previous events and slowly building up the back story of their adventure.
Leader of the Pack is very much a sequel and so not ideal for new readers as there are constant references and connections to the first volume, so you will definitely need to catch up on that before starting this one. However that is far from being a hardship, as this is such a wonderful book that it deserves to be read again and again. The story is simple enough that you can read it quickly if required, but it’s also dense and layered enough that you get a sense of substance and quality out of it if you take more time.
As you would expect with a Nobrow book it looks splendid. De Radigués’ style has the polish of a classic bande dessinée, but more the cartoonish/animation like qualities of a book like Hamish Steele’s Deadendia. The locations are beautiful, while his figure work is classical, yet packed with personality and there a beautifully muted colour scheme that brings the whole thing together. It also has the fun and silliness of a book like Dungeon Fun and it’s over all tone really reminded us a lot of Colin Bell and Neil Slorance’s work.
As with all great all-ages stories, it manages to balance cutesy humour and silliness with enough depth to make it appealing to adults as well as kids. The threat of the wolves for example are very real. These aren’t cutesy friendly wolves, they are wild animals and Tilde ends up being injured as a result. de Radigués isn’t afraid of making her injury very bloody and real, and we have seen this in previous story elements too. This sense of very real danger works brilliantly, as a stark contrast to the colourful and fun artwork. It plays into the idea that Stig and Tilde are growing up before our eyes as part of their own ‘kulku’. They do so in a resourceful and very real way, with some genuine hardships, however they also never lose their childlike innocence and vulnerability which is what makes them such endearing heroes.
This is another wondrous read from Nobrow. If you love the Hilda books and can’t wait for the next volume, this is a more than capable stop gap. But it is also a wonderful read in its own right. Like a Franco Belgian Lumberjanes mixed with the tone of a classic kids adventure like Swallows and Amazons but rendered with a generous dose of Scandi chic, this is an utterly sublime new chapter from a wonderful series, that will make you want to head out on your own adventure!