Vertigo’s new fantasy-ish title Hinterkind recently released its first trade paperback collection, The Waking World. If you only glanced at the covers, it’s probably not what you’re expecting. Oh, sure it’s got the mythical monsters you’d expect to see in something like Vertigo’s elder statesman title Fables, but there’s a layer of science fiction, a layer that’s very close to zombie apocalypse and a bit more political intrigue than you might expect.
Writer Ian Edginton and artist Francesco Trifogli have created something that appears to be a bit more than the sum of its otherwise familiar parts. Honestly, it reminded me the most of Planet of the Apes, but we’ll circle back to that.
Hinterkind is set 15 minutes into the future. Mother Nature struck back against the humans in the form of a super flu virus. Some people were naturally immune and they survived, gathering together in small communities in the ruins of the old cities. What they don’t initially know, is that the creatures of fairy tales have also returned. Led by the Sidhe (elves if you want to be common about it), the “Hinterkind” as they call themselves are ready for some revenge on the humans who drove them all into hiding those many years ago. They’d also like to eat them. Of course the humans are all a bit isolated and may not have quite figured that out yet.
The narrative goes primarily in two directions: the viewpoint of a group of survivors in the ruins of New York City and the viewpoint of the royal class of the Sidhe, who are more or less organizing the Hinterkind. The human survivors are the world building story as they start to realize there’s a whole lot more going on in their world than they previously thought. On the Sidhe side, there’s considerable variance of opinion on who should be running things and what should be done with the surviving humans.
There’s also, from both perspectives, events that really read like somebody took Ronald Reagan’s old campaign line about the scariest sentence in the English language being “we’re from the government and we’re hear to help” and really ran with it.
Why did this book remind me of Planet of the Apes? A couple reasons. The ruins of the world and the hunted humans which both somewhat jibe with the zombie apocalypse feel. There’s a sequence in the tpb that can’t help but remind me of Beneath the Planet of the Apes and the politics of what should be done with the humans strongly resonates with the BOOM! sorely under-appreciated Planet of the Apes series a couple years back, which dealt with the political relations between apes and humans before the humans started losing the ability to talk.
Hinterkind is awash with SF/F tropes and there are many different things you could pick apart here as possible influences. It’s very early in what’s obviously a much longer tale. The “waking world” title refers to the Hinterkind waking up and returning and the humans slowly waking up to the fact they’re not alone and in a pretty bad spot. The table is set for the two narratives to take off. We see the initial skirmishes and conflicts appear. Where it’s immediately going isn’t entirely clear, nor is it quite certain how quickly the threads will collide.
I liked it well enough. Hinterkind does well in scope and carving out enough of its own identity. What to compare it to for recommendations, though. That’s a hard one because it combines so many things. The press releases likes to compare it to Game of Thrones, probably based on the Sidhe skulduggery and having a couple different narrative threads. I can see it, but I’m not sure that’s the most apt, this being post-apocalyptic and having many more magical creatures running around. Game of Thrones meets Planet of the Apes might be the better Hollywood style tagline. If you like fall of civilization stores and don’t mind mixing your science fiction and fantasy, that’s probably a good cognitive place to start.
On the other hand, if you don’t want scientists in your fantasy, this will probably cause you angst.
Perhaps the most important thing to say is Hinterkind is not some boiler plate Fables replacement, something you could have thought when it was rolled out. It is it’s own thing and an enjoyable one if you’re not a purist to one particular sub-genre.