|Alabaster: Wolves #1, written by Caitlin R. Kiernan,|
art by Steve Lieber, with cover-art by Greg Ruth
Several weeks ago, I posted an interview with one of my all-time favorite artists Mike Mignola on Bleeding Cool. Somewhere on the comment board a Bleeding Cool reader voiced his/her distaste for Mignola's work, saying "[he] couldn't write a good story to save his life. He uses the same damn formula over and over again." The reader continues by saying Mignola's characters are "big dumb heroes with boilerplate 'personalities.' They hit supernatural foes with their fists in order to defeat them." Was I surprised by this comment? No, absolutely not. Nor did I feel an angry, vengeful spirit-like need to reply to the reader. But his/her words did make me think and reconsider the heroes we appreciate the most in comics. How many of our classic heroes use their brawn instead of their brains to defeat their vindictive foes? Should we encourage one method over the other, especially if both actions equate worthy results? I don't have an answer for this, but instead I have a suggestion or recommendation to that Bleeding Cool reader or any other reader curious to examine how a game of wits pans out in a comic. Take for example this weeks Dark Horse release Alabaster: Wolves #1.
International-Horror Guild writer Caitlin R. Kiernan, artist Steve Lieber, and colorist Rachel Rosenberg finally bring one of Kiernan's well known heroes Dancy Flammarion (a name worthy of a second glance) to the four-color world. As a teenage, albino vagabond, Dancy travels with the guidance of an angel through a post-apocalyptic world filled with monsters and other evil foes. In Alabaster: Wolves #1, we find seventeen year old Darcy traveling through a desolate town in South Carolina and waiting for a bus to arrive. Unbeknownst to her, something a bit more sinister than public transit waits to pick young Darcy up--for dinner! But before the evil creature pounces on Darcy, a challenge is made. A challenge of riddles. Like Bilbo Baggins and Gollum's classic game of riddles in Tolkien's The Hobbit, this clever contest exhibits exactly the kind of demonstration of wits opposite of most superhero comics. Which makes me sad to declare this comic is only mediocre in aspects otherwise.
I have never heard or read any of Kiernan's written works before Dark Horse decided to publish this comic. After reading this first issue, I don't expect I'll read more of her work or create the fan-base Dark Horse hopes to expect. For a first issue of a brand-new, potentially ongoing series, this beginning plagues the reader with questions: who is Darcy Flammarion? Where does she come from? How did she survive an apocalypse? Is this set in the future? In the past? Why does an angel with four-heads follow her around? Why is Darcy compelled to fight monsters? Question after question after question. Some dialogue and narration reveals answers but nothing stays concrete for a reader to understand just why they should care about this Darcy and her ongoing/past adventures. Whoever decided to begin this story in media res cast a poor judgment call. Along with general writing aspects, I became overly irritated with Darcy's simpleton demeanor and lazily, stupid narration. If the word "ain't" never bothered you before, expect it to by the end of the issue--even one of the characters in the story mentions it! By no mean am I saying slang or hickish words should not consist within character dialogue, but there is such a thing as hammering a nail too deep.
Praise for this comic goes to Lieber's artistic skills, Rosenberg's colors, and Greg Ruth's gorgeous cover art. Anyone who is reading and enjoying Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' Saga will enjoy the similar approach of sequential art. I suggest flipping through the pages and enjoying the artwork, but this comic is still not worth buying only for the art alone. As much as I want to praise this comic for incorporating a battle of the minds scenario, the story races at a snails pacing to finish. Which makes me wonder, what other comic books incorporate methodical strategies to defeat villains rather than relying on fisticuffs? And how does the story pacing feel with those comics? Anyone have any suggestions?
Overall, I say place this comic as far away from your buy pile as you can. If for some compelling reason you feel you MUST have it, I recommend reading it in stores first and seeing whether or not the narration and dialogue bothers you as much as it bothered me. Since this is a first issue, I'm hoping the story picks up in future issues. But for $3.50, I would save the money and buy something you really want.