What do you get when you take a story starring an elephant and a beaver, have them cross paths with a white stag who is out for revenge, and then fill in the cast with supporting characters including a dog, a horse, a glowing cat, and an alien? Possibly one of the most unexpectedly layered and nuanced comic published this year.
District 14: a labyrinthine metropolis where humans, animals and aliens co-exist. It’s amidst this decadent Tower of Babel in which luxury and anarchy dance to the tune of corruption and crime that a mysterious character by the name of Michael, a fresh-off-the-boat elephant, debarks. Within hours of clearing immigration, he’s involved in a major shoot-out and meets the intrepid beaver Hector McKeagh, an opinionated reporter with whom Michael soon forms a one-of-a-kind journalistic duo for the District’s leading tabloid. Bit by bit they uncover some of the District’s darkest secrets, while we get to uncover some of theirs…
Reading District 14 is a lot like visiting a new city. You spend your time trying to visit all the sites, see all the things you have read about in the travel guides or heard about from your friends. But, when all is said and done, it isn’t the trips to the big sites you remember. It is the people you see and meet while riding the subway. it is the little sandwich shop you dash into because you are starving. It is the moon reflects off the water as you walk back to the hotel. Those are what stay with you.
District 14 is full of those moments. You read the book expecting to be sucked in by the mystery of who is chopping off hands and why. You believe that learning the mystery behind the true origin of Tigerman is what will make you truly satisfied. But, in the end, it is the fact that you have gotten to experience all the little things about District 14 that will stick with you.
It is the crazy buildings with floors which do not connect. It is the dirigibles, submarines, and horse-drawn carriages all coexisting, somehow working together with the cable cars and aerial trams, despite the fact that aliens landed on the planet years ago (making little to no impact). It is a crazy, mixed up city which is as much a character as any of the sentient beings who walk the streets.
But at the heart of it all, District 14 is about Michael, the elephant of a man with the heart of a poet. Beneath his rough exterior is a a man who cannot help but try to assit others. And that is why the gut-punch which comes at the end of the book is all the more powerful. That is when you realize that it was not the mysteries, adventures, and romance happening throughout District 14 that were truly important. It is Michael who will stick with you long past the end of your time in District 14.
District 14 is out today from Humanoids. You can order your own copy of District 14here.