Alabaster: Wolves – issues 1-5 (spoilers)

Alabaster: Wolves
A 5 issue miniseries
Punlished by Dark Horse 2012

Collected in Hard Cover 
Feb 2013

Writer: Caitlín R. Kiernan
Artist & Letterer: Steve Lieber
Colours: Rachelle Rosenberg

Cover Artist: Greg Ruth

I chanced upon this title when one of my local comic stores (commonly referred to as an LCS) was relocating. Forbidden Planet (Leeds) relocated from the site they’ve been in ever since taking over from Odyssey 7. They were selling off stock that they didn’t want to move. Sold individually with backing boards I found all issues to this miniseries at £1.00 each. At £5.00 for a full series it only had to be a decent read to make financial sense.#

Was it good? (regular readers of this blog will know before reading on)

I only review something if I like it. So the fact you are reading this already means my £5.00 must have been worth it.

I hadn’t heard of this series before, or if I had it had slipped away to the far reaches of memory. Until last year my reading of US style comics had floundered. Recently it has seriously picked up. The cover I first saw on that Saturday in Leeds was indeed issue 1, then I spotted issue 5. All the covers looked tempting. I must say that on issue 1 I thought I saw chanmail and I mistook the character for an Elf. I’m not an Elf fan and would likely have passed it over. Issue 5 was clearly modern dress and not an Elf so I checked for all the issues.

What I found suggested a modern or near modern horror story. Issue two showed Werewolves. So I decided, as I say above, for £5.00 it only had to be good.

Issue 1 introduced me to Dancy Flammarion an unkempt teenager, I couldn’t determine her age, waiting for a bus out of nowhere. Within moments she is holding a conversation with an American Red-winged Blackbird. I draw the distinction on the type of bird merely as I am British and European Blackbirds are different, a European might bot recognise the species. While it isn’t a member of the crow family I think the message is more or less the same. This harbinger advises Dancy move on.

Then an attractive young woman joins her. Obviously I wasn’t thinking this was not leading anywhere.

We learn that Dancy is guided by an Angel to seek out and kill creatures of Evil. The dark-haired young woman is trying to tell her that not all things that aren’t human aren’t evil. I’ve seen those covers, the title of the book: Werewolf!

This is soon revealed to be a very grey world. Is the Angel Dancy follows really an Angel? Are all monsters evil? Is Dancy a monster?

The Werewolves tempt Dancy in to a desecrated Church where a number of varied monsters lay in wait to attempt to rid themselves of the monster hunter. Dancy is rescued by an unexpected ally, a Ghost. One of her former victims in fact.

The ghost makes Dancy recall at least one creature that may not have been evil, though it certainly wasn’t ‘normal’. So we are called on to question whether Dancy is a modern Joan of Arc or being misled and manipulated.

I think it is fair to say though that the main villain of this story, one Emil Fortescue, is evil. A plantation owner from the American Civil War. Murdered by US soldiers and raised from the dead as a Werewolf by a slave woman whose son the Yankees had killed. Emil rules a large clan of quite naughty Werewolves. His plans seem to be darker still.

Dancy Flammarion isn’t a regular hero, she is a lonely confused youngster who is blindly following a being she takes to be an Angel. It isn’t certain but it seems she may have killed innocents in the past, if not innocents then certainly creatures no worse than some Humans.

Alabaster 4

The blackbird knows more than he tells. He only hives answers that are directly requested and the advise he offers, while clearly well intended, is at best ambiguous or general. Maisie, the ghost, is also attempting to assist Dancy, seems genuine. Able to interact directly with the world, though we can’t be certain that this is restricted only to the creatures Dancy hunts.

The plot is engaging and consistent. I felt the need to know more about Dancy as the story continued. I had sympathy for her state in life and her confusion around the Angel she served that didn’t seem to offer her any succor. The greyness, the vagueness of whether what Dancy was doing was for good or evil was compelling.

The art work was also very interesting and fresh. Oddly as the lettering was done by the Artist, my only complaint is that some word balloons seemed bigger than required. As a complaint this is minor, it was only a few. Overall the storytelling of the art was great and the lettering well placed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this series and that £5.00 was an absolute bargain. If these had been new Monthly comics the cover price would have been fine by me.

I know find that there are more stories about Dancy. A collection of short stories by Caitlín R. Kiernan, the latest version is entitled Alabaster: Pale Horse and is out later this month from Dark Horse. In April Dark Horse release Alabaster: Grimmer Tales collects Alabaster: Boxcar Tales #1–#13 from Dark Horse Presents in a hardback copy.

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