Comic Review: “Alabaster: Wolves” #1

Accomplished dark fantasy writer and multiple International Horror Guild award winner (amongst other awards and well over a dozen nominations), Caitlín R. Kiernan, makes her long time awaited return to comic books with Dark Horse Comics’ release named Alabaster: Wolves. This five part miniseries follows the protagonist, Dancy Flammarion, an albino monster hunter which is, apparently, being watched over by an angel who doesn’t do much more than observe and help her navigate through dangerous situations in the deep south of the United States..

If you’re already familiar with Kiernan’s work, then the character of Dancy Flammarion shouldn’t be new to you, seeing how she appeared in Alabaster which prequels Threshold, both released a long while back. Those short stories follow her through her childhood in the backwoods and swamps of Florida going into her teenage hood having duels to the death with monsters in southern Georgia.

If you aren’t familiar with the character or the series she derives from or even with Kiernan’s work, you’re in luck. This is a fine starting point for all three.  In this comic, you’re not spoon fed Dancy’s life story or all of what she’s about. However, within the 20 some odd pages of this first issue (and this is rare to see it in comics nowadays), you’re shown this character is very not one dimensional. The attention to detail  from the obvious and slight emotion within the interactions between characters, the thought process of Dancy, to even their legitimately and convincingly country grammar within the dialog really hooks you into this world. Sincerely, the writing holds weight all on its own, and if Alabaster: Wolves was illustrated with just crude stick figures done by some eight year old from some public elementary school in some back water town no one ever heard of, this comic would still be a great read.

Luckily, this comic isn’t illustrated by some nobody eight year old. The illustrator who lent his talents to  such other comics like Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales and Dark Horse Presents, Steve Lieber, lends his talents to this comic. Similar to Kiernan’s writing, Lieber’s artistic styling gives an acute attention to detail in a different way, yet still compliments her writing.

None of the comic is highly rendered, but there’s just enough texture everywhere its needed with heavy black and gritty markings without coming off lazy. From an artistic standpoint, it comes off confident and precise with a high contrast inking job, clearly separating Dancy’s pale skin and white hair from the background and characters she interacts with. The colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, which separates Dancy from everything else in a similar way, are treated just the same; there’s just enough to get the point across through great color control. Pale and grayish blues and greens come together with the heavy black in the line art to create an eerie and uncertain mood to set the tone right out the gate, and as the plot thickens the colors get more intense until the pallet switches from uncertain cools to urgent warms to accentuate the gravity of the situation at hand. However, despite how well done Lieber and Rosenberg set mood in this comic, what really stands out are the mannerisms, facial expressions and body language of the characters in this comic they create together. As good as the writing is, the characters’ personalities, emotions and reactions to one another shine through with just the illustration work.

From every angle, this comic is well done.  Kiernan, Lieber and Rosenberg get it. They’re not trying to fit a mold for what comics typically are and they’re not trying to win any beauty pageants with overly and unnecessarily rendered art. They’re telling a story. They present you a world to step into rich with personality and ambiance by giving you just enough. They don’t beat you over the head with anything, but the more you look, the more you find. This is proper sequential art and a prime example on how it should be done. It’s definitely worth the $3.50 Dark Horse Comics is asking for. Personally, I’d go for a hard copy from your local comic book shop and support local business, but if you can’t get to one anytime soon, or you just don’t feel like dealing with them, you could always head over to Dark Horse Comics’ website and buy it there today.

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