Cottons [1] The Secret of the Wind, by Jim Pascoe – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Cottons [1] The Secret of the Wind, by Jim Pascoe. Maps, illustrations by Heidi Arnhold.
NYC, First Second, July 2018, hardcover, $19.99 (242 [+ 22] pages), Kindle $9.99.

Watership Down is known for its creation of a language and religion for its rabbits. Cottons, a deluxe hardcover graphic novel trilogy, has a rabbit history, religion, geography, industry, currency, and “magic”. This is mostly presented as background information in the unpaged epilogue to this first of three volumes.

The story takes place in the Vale of Industry, one of two vales in the World of Lavender (which is much less realistic for rabbits than the rabbit world in Watership Down). The Vale has two main species of inhabitants, the prey rabbits (called cottons) and the predator foxes.

The main protagonist is Bridgebelle, an apparently ordinary doe working in Wampu’s carrot factory. The Industry page explains:

“Sometime during the Tooth Age, an industrious rabbit named Rekra had a wild idea: if rabbits eat carrots for energy, then there should be a way to extract the energy out of carrots in a more pure form. After many failed experiments, he discovered a method of refining carrots into a light orange powder called cha.” (p. [255])

“Wampu Industries”, where most rabbits work, refines carrots into the cha that powers all rabbit materialism. Also rabbit art, but creating art is considered a waste of needed cha. Due to the need for more and more cha, there are less and less carrots for food, leading to a growing hunger problem. Bridgebelle would rather be free to use cha to create objects of art (called thokchas), but this gets her a reputation of being lazy, frivolous, and wasteful of cha.

In addition, the foxes (all shown as evil villains) are trying to force the rabbits to turn the carrot factory over to them. They want the factory and the cha for different reasons: Marrow Winterborne to kill the rabbits and gain a supply of endless power; Sylvan to enslave the rabbits and use the cha to lead the foxes to the Black Sun and summon the Broken Feather King, the ruler of Empyrean, the cottons’ Hell (but it is in the sky); and Vor for the cha as an opium-like drug to which he is addicted.

Besides Bridgebelle, there is a large cast of cottons: Glee, the worker brother of the fox-killed Soozie, who was Bridgebelle’s best friend; Thom Croquet, an artist who encourages Bridgebelle irresponsibly, and Thom’ old father Jhon, a carrot farmer; Wampu the industrialist and his foreman Lavit, interested only in increasing production; Toriji, Loniji, and Samiji, three believers in the cottons’ Windist Curatus religion (they have their ears bound up); and more.

The convoluted plot is that Soozie is killed leaving a secret that her brother Glee tries to solve; Thom Croquet tries to make more thokchas in an attempt to “do something important” through his art; the foxes jockey for power among themselves – it’s all impossible to summarize; so much is going on. But it’s interesting enough that the reader is drawn to keep reading to find out what happens next.

What makes Cotton so appealing is Heidi Arnhold’s detailed, attractive art. She makes the carrot factory intriguing with all its workstations, dials, and gages. The cottons don’t wear clothes, but they do have harnesses to hold pockets, and there is a reference to their having worn clothes in the distant past. All the characters stand out sharply from each other. Both Pascoe and Arnhold are described as having experience in the comic-book industry. This trilogy is a bravura advance beyond that. The Hollywood Reporter has an animated trailer.

Cotton is described as a trilogy, so it’s not a surprise that this ends on a cliffhanger. Cotton [2] The White Carrot will be published in July 2019, and presumably Cotton [3] The Curse of the Vales is scheduled for July 2020.

Fred Patten

Like the article? It takes a lot of effort to share these. Please consider supporting Dogpatch Press on Patreon.  You can access exclusive stuff for just $1, or get Con*Tact Caffeine Soap as a reward.  They’re a popular furry business seen in dealer dens. Be an extra-perky patron – or just order direct from Con*Tact.