They say you should never judge a book by its cover, and by most accounts they are right (whoever they are). However, one glance at Greg Ruth’s cover art to the Alabaster: Wolves trade and you know something special is lurking deep within its glue bound pages. Sometimes all a person really needs from a book is the promise of a blood drenched girl holding a big knife and on that front, this book truly delivers.
Alabaster: Wolves tells the tale of Dancy Flammarion, an albino girl who’s on a mission from God. Seemingly haunted by a three-headed angel, Dancy wanders a post-apocalyptic American south slaying whatever manner of demon or ne’er-do-well that the angel deems worthy of judgement. Tired of walking, Dancy decides to try her luck and wait for a bus. After a brief conversation with a local bird (she talks to birds) Dancy meets the strange and wet-dog smelling Maisie. Maisie it turns out is a werewolf and after a brief battle, Maisie is killed by Dancy only to return as a ghost. Joined by the ghost of a werewolf she had slain and a smart aleck bird, Dancy attempts to leave this damned town she found herself in, only to find out the town has been taken over by an army of werewolves and cursed by a spell that lets people check-in, but never leave.
Caitlin R. Kiernan has successfully created a new franchise that’s a welcome change of pace from the capes and robbers comics currently cluttering the shelves. Alabaster: Wolves is a near perfect blend of fabled mythology and religion, so much so that one almost wishes they had boned up on their bible studies prior to reading. The way Kiernan cuts Dancy’s thoughts with bible verses and her own scattered memory really emphasis her role as the unreliable narrator. One can never know if Dancy is just an innocent girl out to do God’s work, or a troubled southern orphan who is losing her grip on reality. The setting also greatly benefits from its southern inspired dialogue, no doubt influenced by Kiernan’s Alabama upbringing. Dancy has a unique voice that helps set her apart from other heroines on the shelf.
Religion plays a large role in this book and it’s nice to see that Dancy’s religious views are a strength in her quest as opposed to a weakness. While readers can certainly question her sanity, Dancy’s religious views are believable and sympathetic. Her Job-esque feelings of abandonment from her God add an all too human touch to this story of divine retribution. Dancy feel’s lost and conflicted like so many people who hold on to their religious beliefs. But if heavy religious allegory is a turn-off for you, then fret not. The religious aspect is a focus of Dancy and her personal beliefs; this is a story, not a sermon.
Steve Lieber’s art is a great compliment to Kiernan’s story. It’s appropriately moody and at times quite beautiful. Despite the nature of the tale, this is not an overly gory tome, so when there is violence, Lieber, and colourist Rachell Rosenberg have worked perfectly to make sure the blood on display is memorable. There’s not a single drop of red wasted here. Lieber also did the lettering as well, which greatly helps the lay-out, especially when Dancy’s own thoughts become jumbled. It helps when an artist knows just where the letterer is going to place a dialogue box, and in this case, with Leiber pulling double duty, he makes sure his panels can properly display what’s essential to the story.
With Alabaster: Wolves, Kiernan has given the world a completely new and polarizing heroine to follow. Whether her quest is righteous or the result of a damaged psyche, one thing is for sure, Dancy Flammarion is a great character. Mix one part fable, one part horror story, and add a dash of southern fried religion and you have one of the more unique and rewarding stories that Dark Horse has ever distributed.