Comic Review: Alabaster: Wolves #2

Alabaster: Wolves #2
Written by Caitlín R. Kiernan
Art and Letters by Steve Lieber
Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg
Cover by Greg Ruth
Designer Amy Arendts
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: May 9, 2012
Cover Price: $3.50

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a strange title pounced out of Dark Horse last month and leaped onto comic review sites (including this very one), causing critics to shout their approval for Alabastor: Wolves. People spoke of the art by Steve Lieber and the writing (the dialogue in particular) by Caitlín R. Kiernan as being strong and fresh and unique. What particularly piqued my interest, however, was just how vague folks were in describing what actually happens in the book. Most reviews I read went something like this: “It’s about a little Albino girl who speaks with a southern drawl, walking a wasteland filled with werewolves and other monsters, who talks to a bird and an angel who tells her who to kill. Oh, and she might be crazy.”

“Heck,” I thought, “I can describe a comic better then that.”

I soldiered into Alabaster: Wolves #2 with that premise in mind, when I got to the end I was a little freaked out and more then a little confused. After tracking down issue #1, I was slightly less confused, but I certainly felt reassured that the confusion was intentional, a device intended to heighten the overall ambiguous mood. Now I find myself in this awkward position of having to describe this damn issue. Well, here goes, just remember, this is a weird tale that’ll only gives you little pieces of the story at a time, kids.

Our heroine, Dancy Flammarion is recovering from a wound inflicted on her last issue. Her blackbird companion talks her up. Dancy stumbles across some werewolves. There’s a scuffle.

Yeah, see, it’s harder than it sounds.

Perhaps it would entice some readers if they knew that Dancy, the teenage main character in this mini-series, appeared before in a series of short stories and a novel by Irish-born, Alabama-bred author Kiernan. And perhaps it won’t intimidate other readers to know that the lack of context did not distract me one bit from the comic book-reading experience. This is really good Dark Fantasy, on par with the Stephen King Dark Tower books. It’s also great horror in the Southern Gothic tradition and I wouldn’t mind telling any fan of Alan Moore’s run on Swamp Thing to check it out.

Those comparisons don’t sit entirely right with me; we’re only two issues in after all, and while it’s “real good,” it’s not “crazy good,” at least not yet, but those comparisons are as close as I can approximate. That’s the problem with fresh voices in comics, it can be really hard to describe at first. Maybe in a few years some new book will come out that’ll be good and I can say “Oh, it’s kind of like Alabaster: Wolves” and you all will know what I’m talking about.

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