Publisher: Image Comics
Story By: Simon Spurrier
Art By: Ryan Kelly
Release Date: 24th February, 2016
Werewolf tales, as m’colleague Sam rightly pointed out in his review of issue one, are a tricky beast (pun intended). Given their very nature, they ride a rather fine line between eye-rolling silliness and stomach-roiling horror – the idea of a human transforming into a beast by an involuntary malformation of their physiology both too far-fetched to be plausible, and terrifying to consider if it were.
But Spurrier and Kelly are really delivering with this series, creating something for the supernatural fan out there who liked Underworld, but wanted a little bit more meat to its setting than ‘vampires just hate werewolves, okay?’.
The book’s strengths are two-fold – first and most strikingly is the artwork. The framework of the previous issue returns, with three separate story threads representing the beginning, middle and end of our heroine Louise’s ordeal. Whilst Kelly remains on pencils for all three, they’re delineated by changing colourists – Filardi’s bold, bright efforts characterising the transitional ‘before’; Loughridge’s scratchy and muted palette giving an immediacy to the ‘now’; and Wilson’s frantic, firelit stylings creating lots of shadows, and in turn lots of claustrophobia in the story’s ‘end’. It’s harsh to call this a gimmick, given quite how well it works – as noted, each colourist expertly bringing a particular mood to their pages that add to the over-arching narrative in intriguing ways. Kelly’s linework is great in-and-of itself, but the strong colour-work somehow brings the whole story together in a way that shouldn’t really be possible with switching colourists.
The second is Spurrier’s narrative – not least in continuing with the naturalistic dialogue that I so loved in his script for ‘The Spire’. But here, tasking himself with setting his tale in modern times here on Earth, there’s also a fascinating amount of detail in the setting’s lifeblood that really helps to sell the story as a whole. A great deal of effort has been put into ensuring that these are the creatures from which myths all around the world are sourced, and it never feels like the modern setting is ill-fitting.
The non-linear delivery of the narrative – whilst also the source of one of the book’s strength – is also that of the book’s only weakness thus far. It skips about a fair amount, when you wish it’d settle into one thread or the other. It’s not confusing necessarily – the above-mentioned colouring trick does a great job of helping you keep track of things – but it’s a touch frustrating, particularly when all three of the timelines are all equally compelling. Which I suppose is ultimately a grudging nod in the book’s favour – particularly given that when the current arc is complete (and here’s to many more), the narrative as a whole will have come together in a rather satisfying manner.
Overall, the series is proving to be very much a new breed of supernatural storytelling – in the vein of Underworld, but vastly more considered in the way that it grounds itself in modern political and social constructs, seeing fit to tear them apart using lycanthrope as its lens. Its most impressive feat is the fact that whilst most stories of this ilk draw from just one vein of vampire/werewolf folklore, this here draws from all of them at once. This creates a fascinatingly complex world, with a grim narrative that takes a surprisingly disturbing twist towards the end of this issue. Certainly worth a look, if you’ve the stomach for gruesome finales.
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The Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24