Review – Alabaster: The Good, The Bad, and The Bird (#1 of 5) (Dark Horse)


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Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Caitlín R Kiernan
Artist: Darren Warren Johnson
Release Date: 9th December 2015

Alabaster: The Good, The Bad and the Bird (#1) is the first instalment in the latest five part mini-series set in the supernatural world of Dancy Flammarion. An albino young woman who, at the behest of a celestial being claiming to be a seraph, hunts ancient monsters in gothic Georgia, Dancy can also converse with birds.

Dancy was first introduced by author Caitlín R Kiernan in her second novel Threshold (2001) before featuring in the 2006 book Alabaster, a compendium of short stories that prequel the events of Threshold and chart Dancy’s early years as she travels from Florida to Georgia hunting creatures. Now out of print, the book has since been reissued as Alabaster: Pale Horse, with each story featuring some illustrations by Ted Naifeh. Dancy’s story was then continued in the comic book collections Alabaster: Wolves (2013) and Alabaster: Grimmer Tales (2014).

The latest mini-series takes place immediately after Dancy’s untimely death, alternating between Dancy’s experience in the afterlife and the dark activities of a trio of characters back on Earth. Here, we are introduced to a shady character known as Bailiff, who can seemingly obtain desired objects – for a price, as he conducts a business transaction with two women, Carson and Hunter. The scene is presented in a manner very reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s films; amidst the tense atmosphere at a seedy diner in the middle of nowhere the women’s almost palpable potential for violence is captured perfectly in their design – they are wearing animal masks and brandishing large guns. The trio refer to Dancy throughout the mysterious exchange, which is used by Kiernan to seamlessly transition between scenes within the two worlds.

Kiernan’s writing is both poetic and prophetic in its religious tones: redemption, regret and resolution are themes that resonate in Dancy’s philosophical and nihilistic thoughts and memories. As well as blending the two worlds, Dancy’s contemplations also provide the necessary background information for new and familiar readers, specifically in recapping the events of Dancy’s death. The inclusion of the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in the title hint at the biblical references throughout Dancy’s reflections upon her troubled past, choices and personal demons, to reveal a more mature, world-weary version of the character: “We are our own devils—we drive ourselves out of our Edens”.

This is perfectly captured in Darren Warren Johnson’s artwork and Carlos Badilla’s colouring, which creates a stark and timeless hellscape in which Dancy suffers amongst the silent whiteness of her new world. This is created by a severe lack of colour, with largely white pages broken by Dancy’s astral form in strokes of midnight blue and black. This colourless void contrasts perfectly with the rusty brown and red tones of southern Georgia, which creep into Darcy’s memories and fiery visions of the Seraph, hinting that the material world, and the Seraph, isn’t quite done with Dancy yet.

Ultimately, this introduction to the new mini-series provides more questions than it answers, but in doing so the reader is drawn back into Dancy’s world and is left wanting more.

Rating: 3/5.

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The writer of this piece was: Rebecca Booth

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