Unnatural Volume One: Awakening
Unnatural Volume Two: The Hunt
Fabio Amelia (letterer), Mirka Andolfo (writer, artist, colourist), Gianluca Papi (assistant colours)
November 21 2018, April 10, 2019
Sexy anthropomorphized animals isn’t my jam—or at least, I didn’t think it was until I spotted the cover to Unnatural Volume One: Awakening. Mirka Andolfo’s soft, seductive colours, the character’s alluring eyes, and the danger and mystery depicted in a clawed hand resting on her belly was enough for me to add this trade to my WWAC Reading Challenge as “a comic you picked up just because of its awesome cover,” without knowing a thing about the book itself.
This story of your average pig girl, Leslie J. Blair, is basically Zootopia, but sexier. The social issue it focuses on is a totalitarian government that does not permit “unnatural” cross-species or queer relationships between its mammalian citizens. Leslie is stuck in a dead end job at a restaurant that’s managed by a sexist, exploitative jerk. She’s just about to turn twenty-five, which means she has to join the government’s reproduction program and have a life partner of the appropriate species selected for her. The problem is that Leslie has been having some seriously erotic dreams featuring herself in the arms of a white wolf, and her dreams are threatening to betray her.
Turns out I wasn’t exactly right about the Zootopia aspect, and Leslie’s problems are far, far bigger than she realizes. Much like the cover lured me in, Unnatural’s story of a sweet, saccharine pig girl who just wants to find love, surrounded by supportive (if somewhat intrusive) friends who indulge her love of sushi, is only scratching the surface. By the end of the first volume, Leslie has been ripped out of her humdrum life, accused of murder, and hunted by government sanctioned killers, and she is learning a lot more about her past than she wanted to. All this on top of the ancient, mystical energies inside her that are fighting their way out through more than just her dreams.
I’m on a bit of a Terminator high after the release of the Dark Fate trailer, so, in the second book of the series, I am seeing a lot of Sarah Connor in Leslie. Like Sarah, Leslie is a down on her love and luck waitress who is thrust into a future-altering event. She’s a mousy pig, but with support, she has the potential to find the strength within her and become badass.
Andolfo’s illustrations take Leslie through a myriad of emotions and activities, from the mundane to the most frightening. As both writer and artist, Andolfo balances the words and images well, tossing in lots of humour in both. She’s not afraid to let her characters be cute, ugly, messy, vulnerable, or hideous—making them all very human despite the tails, claws, horns, and snouts.
Many characters come and go in the story, but Andolfo is adept at making each one of them memorable, either through the unique character designs, or their role within a story that is constantly throwing twists and turns at the reader. When particular characters show up again or new ones are introduced, you can be certain that some new twist will take Leslie and the reader deeper into a darkness that the blurb or trailer doesn’t even remotely hint at.
We recently took a look at the cover of issue #9 for our Cover Girl series. At that time, I had an inkling of what the story was about but, having not read the second volume, I couldn’t quite argue the points expressed by my colleagues in their analysis based on the cover alone. The cover of the first issue will either turn particular readers on or off, but this is a prime example of a book not to be judged by its covers, and issue #9 certainly leaves a lot to be questioned.
As with the first cover of Unnatural, the cover of issue #9 was enough to remind me that I really needed to know more. Now I’m all caught up and eager to see how the story unfolds in the last issues of the twelve-part arc. Looking back through the chapters now, I am impressed with the way Andolfo has cunningly spelled out the mystery she’s unravelling—but you have to turn the pages to get lost in the tapestry.