Having recently finished reading Stray Dogs: Dog Days and currently finding myself enthralled in Good Boy (you can read my review here, if you like), I’m realizing that I’m on a bit of an animal-centric comic book kick as of late. Therefore, when I saw issue three of underrated publisher Ablaze Publishing’s Animal Castle on the new release shelf at my local comic bookstore, I knew that I had to find issues one and two and give them all a read immediately. Which is exactly what I did.
Knowing nothing about the comic beyond the fact that I liked the detailed artwork on the cover, I was quickly pulled into the complex plot of Animal Castle. The story is strongly reminiscent of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which is a tale that has stuck in my mind despite not having read it since middle school. Published in 1945, Animal Farm is a satirical novella which tells the story of a group of farm animals whom, unhappy with the way the farm is being run by its human farmer, work together to overthrow him and form their own society. Their plan to form a better and fairer home where all animals have equality is eventually dashed under the dictatorship of the pig Napoleon, who assumes leadership simply because he believes that he is the smartest of all the animals.
Animal Castle #1 pages 1 & 2
Similarly, Animal Castle (written by Xavier Dorison with art by Felix Delep) takes place in a castle whose former human owners have disappeared (whether they died or just left is unknown) and the animals left behind have formed a society of their own. They are led by the bull Silvio whom, as the strongest animal in the castle, has elected himself as president. Like Orwell’s Napoleon, Silvio quickly becomes a dictator with only his own best interests at heart. He rules the castle by fear with help from his dog militia while the rest of the animals work exhausting jobs for little more than scraps.
Animal Farm was written as commentary on the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union that followed. Orwell was critical of Stalin’s leadership and, in an essay he wrote in 1946 titled “Why I Write”, he divulged that his intention in writing Animal Farm was "to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole".
Miss B. and her kittens
Dorison and Delep seek to follow in Orwell’s footsteps in this tale of class equality, oppression, and rebellion, except they promise to take it a step further. Told mainly from the viewpoint of Miss B., the castle’s only adult cat, readers bear witness to increasingly violent and selfish acts committed by Silvio and his dog militia. When a bloody rebellion leads to the death of a friend, Miss B. finds herself in a position where she must make a choice to either speak out against the unjust class oppression Silvio benefits from, or fall in line and watch as life inside the castle continues to deteriorate for its weakest and most vulnerable citizens.
It's worth mentioning that perhaps the most striking thing about this comic is its timing. With real life headlines telling us of Putin’s unjust war against Ukraine and the bravery of average Ukrainian citizens as they fight back against Russia’s presidential dictator, what better time could there be for a comic like Animal Castle?
Beginning with the opening line “On the Farm all animals were equal. In the Castle some are more equal than others,” Animal Castle is set to be a new generation’s fusion of political and artistic purpose and I’m eager to see how this tale ends.
Angela “LaLa” Rairden is an avid fan of comic books, Star Wars, and most things nerdy. A cosplayer, she loves to attend comic cons dressed as her favorite fictional characters, particularly Harley Quinn. Although her day job is at a grocery store, writing has always been her true calling. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is currently writing her first novel.