Writer: John Dudley
Artwork: Don Cardenas
Colours: Marie Enger, Mark Dale, and Kelly Fitzpatric
Lettering: Jon Westhoff
Release Date: Kickstarter live until 1st December 2017 (LINK)
Packs of the Lowcountry is an original graphic novel from writer John Dudley and artist Don Cardenas which is currently going through a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the release of a deluxe hardcover edition of the entire 200-page story.
Set in the wake of an invasion of nightmarish creatures which has left the world in ruins, it focuses on a rag-tag group of soldiers who find themselves searching for a rumoured ‘safe zone’ in South Carolina, and who encounter all manner of horrific situations and interpersonal drama along the way.
Writer John Dudley has some bold ideas here, mixing established science fiction and horror tropes into what is essentially a military drama with a noticeably supernatural slant. The delivery is fairly broad, and while there are a lot of ideas being thrown at the wall throughout the 200 pages, it’s a testament to Dudley’s enthusiasm that the vast majority of them end up sticking.
The story is framed from the perspective of Bastion Conroy, a young soldier on his first mission outside of the “safe zone”. Plagued by panic attacks, Batsion’s inner monologue effectively narrates the story, providing some deeper insight into what’s going on and helping us to develop a strong emotional investment in the group he finds himself becoming a part of – particularly once things start to shake up near the end of the second chapter.
It’s an enjoyable story, and while it sometimes struggles under the weight of its own ambition, there are still enough creative ideas here to keep things moving briskly and fluidly, with only a few missteps throughout the course of the 200 pages.
Unfortunately, on the visual side of things, there’s a real roughness to some of Don Cardenas’ artwork that frequently distracts from the narrative flow, with some questionable anatomy and a plethora of wonky-looking faces along the way. It’s not all bad, however, as the overall structure is undoubtedly sound, his character design is top-notch – particularly the “wolves” themselves with their hulking mass of fur, teeth and claws – and there’s definitely a marked improvement in the quality of the artwork as the story unfolds.
The quality of the colouring also ebbs and flows throughout the course of the volume, with a somewhat jarring aesthetic as we shift between harsh, flat tones and more polished, subtle shading. The colours also unfortunately serve to highlight some of the inconsistencies in Cardenas’ art, emphasising rather than masking some of the aforementioned ‘wonkiness’, although again, it’s worth mentioning that there are some fantastic looking pages throughout the course of the volume.
With an engaging blend of science fiction, military drama and what almost feels at times like a super-team origin story, Packs of the Lowcountry definitely has a lot going for it. And in spite of the fact that it can feel a little jumbled at times – along with the occasional inconsistency of the artwork – it’s difficult not to get excited by the sheer creativity and ambition on display here. Definitely well worth a look.
The Packs of the Lowcountry Kickstarter is live until Friday the 1st of December, and you can check it out by CLICKING HERE.