May 17th, 2013 | → 0 Comments | ∇ Graphic Novels & Comics |
When I were a lad, the BBC released an adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia. None of this sweeping, multi-million dollar teeny bopper bollocks with Liam Neeson voicing the lion (‘I will find you, White Witch…and I will kill you’) but a budget version, with a brilliantly realised animatronic lion, intense over-acting and people dressed up as beavers that made them look like the dirty bear from Bo’ Selecta. It was great. Until we were introduced to Maugrim, the White Witch’s ‘chief of police’, who just happened to be a werewolf. And then I shit my pants.
Werewolves get a bit of a bum deal in fiction. Maugrim is an example of how werewolves should be; change-your-trousers scary, but there’s not enough of them to make a real dent in today’s horror market, particularly in comics. Ben Templesmith’s Welcome to Hoxford is the stand out example of how to do a werewolf comic (the fan-made film adaptation is totally worth 20 minutes of life). And now, there’s Ferals, a comic that is more Dog Soldiers than Taylor Lautner. Thank God.
The story is seemingly standard werewolf fare. Man meets seductive lady in a bar, they get frisky, she scratches him, he wakes up with long nails, a hairy back and a sudden urge to howl at the Moon. Not so. We follow Officer Dale Chesnutt, who’s called out to a brutal crime scene where they find the body of his friend, torn limb from limb. Drinking himself into oblivion to forget what he’s seen, he meets and beds (well, ‘toilets’ in this instance) the mysterious Gerda (a really well written femme fatale; a totally unpredictable personality) who turns out to be on the run from a secret society of werewolves who have found their way of life to be threatened. Terrorising Chesnutt’s town is ‘The Great One’, a monster who seems intent on killing the ones closest to Dale. But for what reason?
Writer David Lapham keeps us guessing throughout this first arc, which ends quite abruptly, leaving you with more questions than answers. Who are the ‘men in black’ that know about the werewolf community? What’s the strange, almost spiritual connection between Chesnutt and Gerda? And why would a werewolf leave a severed penis in the mouth of said victim? (Yes, it’s in there; yes, it’s disturbing).
Lapham isn’t afraid to rewrite the rules, too, which is great to see. The beast is out in the daylight, silver bullets aren’t needed, the werewolf lineage is almost treated like a disease with something bizarre, almost alien, planted in the bodies of those who are ‘on the turn’, so to speak. And behind all this, a strong cast of characters, many of whom you find yourself disliking, Chesnutt included, because they’re all out to screw each other over. This adds to the dynamic of the story, adding an air of volatility to proceedings. Just as well because Lapham, he likes a good dismemberment, he does, and when those heads roll, it could be anybody’s.
And who better to do it than Gabriel Andrade. His work on the Crossed 2013 Annual was outstanding and he’s on excellent form here. His lines and character work are all top notch but it’s the beast itself where he’s excelled. With its almost overly long limbs, hulking body and long-toothed grin, it’s a force of nature that literally tears into anything and anyone it comes across.
What both Lapham and Andrade do very well in this comic is action. There are some brilliant set pieces in this book; the beast ploughing its way into the town’s police station to get at Chesnutt is great as is the final showdown, bringing all the major players together for a climatic bloodbath. It’s good, (not so) clean fun that tweaks the werewolf genre slightly but doesn’t totally reinvent it. The mysterious suited government types are a nice addition and it’ll be interesting to see how this angle plays out. Ferals is about to finish its second arc, expect a volume 2 trade soon. Unless, of course, Lapham and Andrade decide to dismember all the characters. It’ll probably finish then.