After all the exciting hubbub of ALA’s annual conference—one of two times a year I talk to more people in one weekend than all other weekends combined (at least that’s what it feels like)—I tend to need some well-earned solitude. What better way to get some quiet than to hunker down with a cinematic, luminescent webcomic about a bunch of mice? But don’t assume Mac Smith’s Scurry is a cute animal story (as I initially did); for all its fantasy elements, this tale gives a heaping dose of gritty realism. As we’re introduced to Smith’s world, it’s clear that something catastrophic has happened that drove all the humans away, and only animals remain. A colony of mice and rats, long dependent on humans for food, are clinging to their old ways, scavenging houses in an abandoned suburban neighborhood to find whatever scraps are left behind.
Only the food’s drying up, a dangerous gang of cats is slinking about, and the scouts they’ve sent to the city haven’t returned. The stresses of their circumstances are testing the fragile bonds of their colony, and dissent simmers. Wizend, old leader Orim prefers a more cautious approach, while Resher—an opportunistic, unusually large bully of a mouse—wants to abandon the neighborhood and take everyone to the city, regardless of the potential lives lost on what’s sure to be a perilous journey.
Though they seem hopelessly divided, rumors of a truck full of food somewhere in the forest present a last-ditch chance at survival. Wix, an impulsive but intrepid mouse desperate for adventure, leaps at the opportunity, while his friend Pict, Orim’s daughter and heir apparent, is resentful about having to stay behind.
But the forest is full of dangers, not the least of which is a gigantic, cruel cat named Titan, who has a particular disdain for Wix. The biggest danger of all, perhaps, is that none of the colony members really know what awaits them in the woods. Thanks to some extra scenes of panicked woodland creatures, Smith is hinting that it’s bad.
Smith’s background is in video game concept art, which is beautifully evident here. His detailed, near-photorealistic scenes glow with sunset light and his characters have fantastic, dynamic movement and expression. Slightly off-kilter panels and cinematic action give the whole package a sense of tension and urgency. Meanwhile, the visual depth and intricacy of the backgrounds add compelling intrigue to the story. Who left these houses behind? How long have the people been gone?
With rich artwork, careful world-building, and smart pacing, this Secrets of Nimh–like story has lots more in the works, and while just under two parts are currently available, those chapters are setting up something enticing. Scurry updates twice a week.