Book Review: Wilde Life (Volume 1)

Volume 1 of Wilde Life by Pascalle Lepas compiles the first three chapters of a web comic of the same name into one shiny, full-color edition. Following the story of a young Oscar Wilde (no, not that one) who rents a haunted house off Craigslist, Wilde Life is one part ghost story, one part Native American-inspired fantasy, a dash of a situational comedy, and wholly entertaining.

The book itself feels really good in your hands, with thick pages and beautiful colors. It is simply presented and highlights its content without the reviews and ads that a lot of other books have (which I appreciated). It includes several unique illustrations and is about 150 pages long. Whether its worth spending the money for a physical copy (since the comic is available online for free) depends on the person, but I’m very happy with my purchase and glad to support the artist.

As far as the story goes, Wilde Life is very immersive: the characters are nuanced and well-written, and the dialogue flows well and is conversational. Each character — whether it be Oscar, Sylvia, or Clifford — has a unique voice and are likable characters (or at least interesting ones). All of Lepas’s characters, no matter if they are main characters or just backgrounds characters with a single line, feel like real people, which makes Podunk, Oklahoma feel like a real town that any of us could move to.

There is also a very interesting supernatural element to the comic that focuses on stories from Native American mythology and in the case of Barbara (Baba) Yaga has some Slavic inspirations as well. It’s really refreshing to see a book that handles mythology and fantasy in the way Wilde Life does. None of the mythological elements (such as Clifford being a werewolf) ever seem cliche, despite the fact that we’ve seen references like these many times before. Lepas writes and illustrates with a nuance that makes these references feel natural to the story and not like something she added as an aside or nudge to her readers.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see a cast of women that actually look their age, since most women in Hollywood can’t seem to get acting jobs from the ages of 35-55. With the obvious exception of Sylvia (since she’s a ghost and all), there was a wide range of ages represented in the appearances of the female characters. Diversity in race and body shapes was present as well, which was nice.

The entire world-building of the comic is really expertly done. From the reactions of the residents when Oscar first moves to town (“Well, howdy stranger.”), the real-life diversity of Podunk’s residents, to the effortless way Lepas blends reality with fantasy, this is really an incredible comic. I feel very conflicted about whether I want to wait and read the second volume or if my anticipation will get the better of me, and I’ll end up reading it online. I usually prefer the feel and experience of reading a physical book, but this story might be the one to change my mind.

I also love how reminiscent this story is of some of the anime I grew up watching, like Ranma 1/2 meets Howl’s Moving Castle in Oklahoma or something equally ridiculously and amazing like that. It’s obvious that Lepas really loves the work she does and that comes across in her writing. This edition also ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger, but not too big of one where it makes you want to throw the book against the wall and pull your hair out. Each chapter feels like a complete story, but you can tell she is gearing up for something bigger to happen to Oscar, which I can’t wait for.

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