Genre Is The New Steady-State II: Werewolf!!!

Posted by on December 18th, 2010 at 5:38 AM

Rob reviews the anthology Werewolf!!!, edited by Penina Gal, Josh Rosen, Betsey Swardlick and Nick Patten.

Werewolf!!!, is the third volume from a team of cartoonists from the Center For Cartoon Studies. The first and second volumes of the anthology were both fairly high-quality, which is unusual for themed genre anthologies.  That’s probably because of the quirkiness of the editorial crew, all of whom tend to specialize in off-kilter genre stories.  This volume is no exception, with 62 pages worth of stories ranging from psychological horror to broad spoof.  This volume felt a little more bloated than the past two editions, perhaps signaling that the anthology may have run its course.  That said, there was still plenty to like here.

The two standout stories were Penina Gal’s “Cubs” and “Failwolves #4″ by Betsey Swardlick.  The former works because it’s told through the eyes and experiences of two children looking for a bit of distraction on their farm.  That focus allows Gal to hold back details regarding the lycanthropic nature of the “puppy” the kids find until the horrific final reveal of the kids seeing blood-stained paw tracks trailing away from their barn.  Gal’s storytelling is clear and effective, with the fact that this is a daytime story making it more disturbing somehow.  Swardlick’s story is at the other end of the spectrum, as part of the latest misadventures of a pair of vegan werewolves.  Swardlick’s all about dramatic gestures and hyperbole, with dialogue that rings true to the ear no matter how absurd the premise of the story.  This one’s about one of the werewolves coming up with the crazy idea of staging a play called “The Wolf Inside Me” as a way of deflecting a family obligation.  Swardlick is great at comedic escalation, with her expressive characters selling her premise in a manner that’s very funny.

Most of the rest of the stories tend to be one-note gags or darker stories.  Ben Horak’s “End Of The Line” is a shaggy-dog joke involving a werewolf being hunted by a mob until his real double identity is revealed, to comedic effect.  Nick Patten’s “Wolf Notes” is another story with several pages of set-up for a mildly amusing punchline.  Morgan Pielli’s “The Lightsmith” is a typically dense genre story from this artist, but it felt a bit rushed and cramped.  The storytelling was difficult to follow at times thanks to the use of dense hatching and character design that wasn’t quite varied enough. This volume needed one more strong tentpole story or else needed to be shortened by a few pages.  If the anthology does continue, I’d either like to see a few longer stories by creators like Gal & Swardlick (Josh Rosen’s presence, outside of the cover, was greatly missed here) or else some more new blood.

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