Publisher: Gestalt Publishing
Author(s): Andrew Constant
Artist(s): Joh James, Nicola Scott
Release Date: 17th July 2014 (UK)
Torn, a graphic novel from Australian publishers Gestalt Comics, takes a boldly unique look at the ‘werewolf’ genre by flipping the traditional dynamic on its head as we witness a wolf being turned into a man. Rather than serving as ‘just another werewolf comic’ however, writer Andrew Constant manages to cram a great deal of emotion into what could potentially be a fairly superficial premise, delving deeply into our main protagonist’s struggles to adjust to this strange new world, not to mention strange new body.
Our protagonist’s desire to articulate his primal instincts come out in just a few broken words, but they are given extra emphasis by his straightforward internal monologue – a monologue fuelled by simple concepts such as ‘family’ and ‘home’. Tortured by the perceived failures of his past, he is dragged kicking and screaming into the human world and finds himself crossing paths with Sarah, a troubled woman who is struggling with her own past. The pair form a largely unspoken bond, clinging to one another in a desperate attempt to find what they’re each looking for.
The artwork is scratchy and visceral throughout, with Joh James cramming his panels with explosive, chaotic imagery and jaggedly over-exaggerated characters. There’s definitely something of Charlie Adlard or, dare I say, Frank Miller in his rough yet expressive style, which is most definitely no bad thing. His style also ebbs and flows with the current of the book, restraining itself somewhat during the quieter moments before exploding forth in a cacophony of thick lines and claustrophobic layouts whenever the pace picks up. Occasionally things can get a little too crowded though, making some of the panels a little difficult to follow as a result. Thankfully however, these instances are few and far between, and for the most part he manages to keep things pleasingly chaotic without becoming too muddled.
Aside from our protagonist’s struggles to adjust to the human world, several other sub-plots are introduced along the way such as Sarah’s troubled past, the two police officers who are trying to hunt him down, and – perhaps most significantly – the rivalry from his days as a wolf which follows him onto the streets of his newfound home. These threads start off fairly disparate, before gradually coming together in a crescendo of chaos during the book’s final chapter. It’s truly powerful stuff, with Constant’s fractured dialogue and James’ increasingly primal artwork coming together to create something utterly memorable in the bleakly poetic finale.
Overall, Torn is a book that manages to take what could potentially be a worn-out genre and adds something new and intriguing to it. The struggles of the primary character are almost impossible not to be drawn in by, and Joh James’ artwork wraps the whole story up in a goregeously erratic visual bundle. Highly recommended, and another success from the team at Gestalt.
You can purchase Torn from Turnaround Publisher Services (who generously provided the review copy of this title) via their official website.
You can also find our more about Gestalt Comics from their official website.