*Review written by contributor Lido Giovacchini
If Superior Carnage #2 is an example of how much a series can evolve and improve over an issue Skin Trade #2 is a great example of how much it can wallow in exactly where it was before. It’s honestly kind of impressive how much the story doesn’t move over the course of this issue and how so much of it is just padding of the worst kind: watching characters fumble around to figure out things we the audience already know. In case you didn’t read my earlier review Skin Trade is an adaptation of a George R. R. Martin novella of the same name concerning a murder mystery plot in a small economically devastated town. The “big twist” of the series is that the town plays host to a pseudo pack of pseudo werewolves, of course this is only a twist if you didn’t see the werewolf drawn on the front cover of the first issue. In that sense you’re sort of lucky to be a new reader and missed those particular spoilers as almost nothing that happened in Skin Trade #1 is recounted here for new readers. That’s one of the book’s big problems is a lack of suspense and mystery making for a deadly dull read that never seems to go anywhere or bring you back for a second issue, unless you review comic books for a geek news and review site in which case you have to come back anyway.
Like issue 1 issue 2 of Skin Trade is a painfully boring slog of watching characters putter around trying to solve mysteries that were spoiled for us by the first issue. That’s one of the book’s biggest problems is a complete misunderstanding of how to keep the audience in suspense or mystery, a good chunk of this issue is focused around the big revelation that werewolves committed a grizzly series of murders in the town way back when but that was already established in issue 1. And it’s not like we’re seeing a character stumble upon this information or finally put the pieces together, Randi Wade (the female P.I. with a grudge and no character) already knew it was werewolves so we spend the whole issue running in place and expecting the audience to be surprised when we don’t go anywhere.
Thankfully there are a few actual revelations in this issue; it’s just that they aren’t given to us well. Another big plague of Skin Trade is a complete misunderstanding of comic book pacing. The series is paced like a novel or a film, slowly unfolding and with the assumption you’re going to be reading large swaths of it at a time. The problem is (like last time) that this is a comic book; you need dangling plot threads, loose ends, and shocking reveals to keep the momentum of a series going. It’s similar to how the show runners of Game of Thrones try to focus on ending a lot of episodes with a cliff hangar or shocking twist to keep you jazzed for the next episode but in Skin Trade #2 the shocking twist at the end is just that it’s still werewolves. The actually interesting revelations in the book have to do with how the murder was committed (let’s just the say the title is very literal) and sort of about who the murderer is. Now no one is actually confirmed but it is revealed some kind of big monster creature with finger knives is hunting all the towns werewolves which is a pretty cool twist and revelation…a revelation that was again spoiled by the book’s front cover and previous issue. Issue 1 for those of you who didn’t read it ended with the revelation that the werewolf community was being hunted down by “something” and this issue’s cover is a picture of the knife fingered monster hand.
Reviewing this book really felt like I was screaming at a brick wall. The mistakes Skin Trade makes are downright amateur, showing a complete misunderstanding of the medium and basic concepts of story telling such as suspense or mystery. The story goes nowhere very quickly and the characters are all about as interesting as a bowl of milk and the entire enterprise comes off horribly dull, sluggish, and as a giant waste of potential. Worse then that though I question if Skin Trade was ever meant for success beyond its years. The original novella was written in 1989, 24 years ago, so much about werewolves has been done or changed in that time that most of Skin Trade has that feeling of day old bread, it’s gone stale and even if you could soften it up maybe it’s time to get off the bread and give something else a shot instead. Not recommended.