Walking through the shelves of your local comic shop can be daunting, but occasionally there is a cover that grabs your attention. Sometimes, just sometimes, this search pays off, and you’re introduced to a new option you might not have considered before. This is what happened to me with Alabaster Wolves by Dark Horse Comics.
By the time we’re introduced to Dancy Flammarion, her reputation has already preceded her – even to the abandoned South Carolina town in which we find her. The albino huntress’s reputation, one of a killer of monsters and demons, has come at the behest of a demanding and aloof angel. After unknown time – presumably the entirety of her young life – Dancy Flammarion has grown tired of this higher calling and rebels against her guardian angel. This rebellion causes the angel to abandon her, and while she never lifted a finger to help her, there is a sense of isolation.
Alone without her angel for the first time, she meets two unlikely companions: a wise-cracking crow and a werewolf with a past. Neither of these companions seem especially trustworthy – the werewolf most of all, due to the last time they had seen each other being fatal. That, and they are leading her to an even greater evil than what she’s faced before. As they travel together, Dancy’s history is expanded upon, and insight is given into how this new situation has led her to re-examine her beliefs.
The world of Alabaster Wolves is reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic or isolated reality without ever truly acknowledging said setting. This is a perfect playground for International Horror Guild Award-winner Caitlin R. Kiernan to weaver her tale. Her story and prose, along with the artwork by Steve Lieber and colors by Rachelle Rosenberg, make Alabaster Wolves a vibrant, yet grimy existence – something based in the fantastical and reality at the same time.
The artwork lacks finer detail that in other works might be missed, but in Alabaster Wolves, the bold artwork and color palette perfectly reflect the isolated and otherworldly settings. Kiernan makes all the characters – whether good or evil, even human or monster – unique and relatable. The religious undertones are simultaneously integral and separate. They form the basis for Dancy’s internal struggles and understanding as an observer, not forced upon the reader.
This is a Horror Fantasy genre, while there is the occasional action it’s not the focus. There are times when the plot becomes convoluted due to the nature of the material that required a second reading. At these times, it was the beautiful artwork and characters that helped push past these mental road-blocks. Alabaster Wolves becomes a dense forest of motivation and character background in the mid-issue of the series.
As Alabaster Wolves progresses, there becomes an attachment to Dancy and her companions. This is a testament to Kiernan’s ability to create a world and characters both alien and familiar, as well as Lieber’s ability to convey emotional and subtle details that go beyond the stroke of a pen. One part in particular shows the ravenous and uncontrolled nature of a werewolf: without saying a word, it shows her struggle to contain these desires while slowly giving in.
Alabaster Wolves offers a gorgeous look at a moment in the life of Dancy Flammarion that sadly only lasts five issues. This is a fine example of all the parts converging to create a stronger offering. When the plot stumbles on the nature of the material, the artwork helps push the reader forward. Where the lack of surface details in the artwork might seem a loss, the undertones and plot add depth. The greatest weakness of Alabaster Wolves is the short time we had with our albino heroine and her world. A longer series could have fleshed out some of the convoluted nature, and the ending leaves the story open for more to come.
Those looking for a to actually read a comic not just read through it should give this series a place on their shelves. And hey, those looking for an easy video can check out the video review of Alabaster Wolves on the Comic Station Issue #1.