Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Wolves

Haunt of the Hunt

... of arrivals and departures that allow for interpretation as its own merit. Becky Cloonan’s Wolves contains only sixteen spoken words; and yet it is as rich and deep as the nighttime world in which it is set.  Comic book readers rail against overdone exposition (often through dialogue) that serves only to signpost the mundane and redundant while decreasing the potency of the visuals; not so with Wolves. Cloonan animates an ingenuous plot with the protagonist’s possessed thoughts – imaginings that roil in ambiguity, although not for the sake of it – and lets the art speak for itself in stark (and literal) black and white. The straw man argument says that Cloonan is an artist first and a writer second, so it’s no surprise, no coincidence that the script is spare and the dialogue sparse; however it’s the words in Wolves that construct the puzzle box of the story’s many layers, it’s the words and thoughts of the characters (and not the deeds) that conspire to occlude and offset Cloonan’s fierce illustrations – a symmetrical dialectic of text and image. Set in a medieval milieu, this is a tale of hunted and haunted hunter. There is a woman; who she is (what she is?) appears uncomplicated, but love (and Wolves) is never so simple. Her presence is one of the story’s mysteries – she seems more than the obedient spouse or the object of courtly intrigue; her role may be distinct, but she is not. Perhaps, she is what she appears to be, an enigma. The unnamed protagonist is charged with a task that is familiar and uncanny at the same time; the less said the better.
  Cloonan’s art excels as those who know her work in the similar environs of Northlanders and the more recent Conan The Barbarian can attest. Landscapes look cinematic and characters are composed within the frame as to provide dimension and depth to each panel. On a side note, Cloonan corners the market on sketching weariness in both man and beast; her viatae should say, ‘draws sad horses well.’ Dialogue is at a premium, but Cloonan adds sound effects like ‘sklish’ for splashing water, and battle sounds such as ‘shik,’ and ‘gshh’ that inform this silent interlude with real verve.
   Binaries imbue Wolves with their tension; exits and entrances are evident on almost each page. ‘Open the Gates!’ commands a castle guard. These are the first words that any of the characters actually speak out loud; and the fact that they are spoken by a ‘gatekeeper’ adds to Cloonan’s cleverness as a writer. On one hand the order is clear: a call produces a response, the gate is opened and the hunter is allowed to pass through. On the other hand, it’s all metaphor, an exchange, a quid pro quo that prizes the meaning of opposite actions eternally bound; ever unbreakable and perpetually unchangeable. Wolves tracks in the elliptical dreamscape of memory; an attempt to parse meaning from the scattered footfalls of love, loss, duty, and dignity; an open-ending

Wolves is available for $6 (incl. shipping) at Becky Cloonan's website

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