Alabaster: Wolves by Caitlín R. Kiernan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Dancy Flammarion is quite an unusual character. A young teenager who has been on her own for a while, guided by a seraph who leads her to monsters she needs to kill. I first became acquainted with Dancy in Alabaster, and I was drawn to her character. I wanted to protect her, even though she is much more fierce than I could ever see myself. In Alabaster, I wasn't quite sure of how much was real and how much wasn't, as the writing was quite surreal. In this graphic novel, I think you pretty much know that Dancy isn't living out a psychosis of what's happening to her. Sometimes graphic novels don't tell stories well, but that is not the case with this one. This story leads itself very well to the visual medium, so I am glad that they decided to make it into a graphic novel.
The artwork is beautiful. Although some imagery is dark and disturbing, I still see a lot of beauty in the manner in which Dancy's fine features are drawn and painted (as well as another young woman she encounters), and even the choices of color and design in the darker scenes. The motion of the wolves is conveyed very well, even down to their musculature and sinews. Dancy is an albino, and the artist captured this excellently, from her white hair, white skin, and to her red/pink eyes. The artwork also brings the Gothic Southern atmosphere to vivid life. It is spot on with that otherworldly feel of the South, where a bloody history and rich folkloric heritage (slavery and Civil War) has tinged the land in so many ways. Even in the daytime scenes, the hot sun seems barely able to protect against the dark monsters lurking in the shadows.
The stories are nicely sinister, with just enough menace to make sure a scary/slightly disturbing read without going over the line into the grotesque and unpalatable. The lettering captures the feel of Kiernan's prose very well, and I could clearly hear the syrupy thick Southern accents as I read. I was holding my breath as I read, not sure if Dancy was going to make it out of the very sticky situations she faces. She's very good at what she does, but she's not invincible, so she faces very real threats along the way. I appreciate how things ended. I'm not ready to say goodbye to this special young lady.
I think this is a good read for those who are inclined more to classic horror, because it has such great atmosphere, and the storylines are tailored towards the older themes of horror. As I mentioned above, the Southern Gothic feel, but also a bit of the Lovecraftian sort of mythical feel. It makes me think of those occult detectives who are alone in their fight against the monsters of darkness, such as Manly Wade Wellman's Silver John and Kolchak. This is awesome because Dancy is a young woman, and she doesn't need a man to rescue her.
I have to give this one 4.5 stars because it was very nearly perfect. I hope for more Dancy adventures in the future.
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