Trading Up: Ferals Volume 1
Lowdown - Article
Posted by Andy Oliver on Mar 25, 2013
Full of the twists and turns and unpredictable narrative tricks that we’ve come to expect from a David Lapham project.
Rural America, and the small town of Cypress, Minnesota is about to find itself engulfed in an orgy of carnage and gore. Officer Dale Chesnutt’s investigation into the horrific death of a close friend – whose body has been mutilated beyond recognition – is briefly interrupted by a drunken sexual dalliance with a mysterious woman in the toilets of the local bar. It’s an apparently casual encounter but it’s one that will lead the wayward policeman into the world of a clandestine society of werewolves, shadowy governmental agents and attacks on his own family as he seeks to discover the truth about the brutal murders...
David Lapham’s latest foray into the darker corners of comics storytelling has an almost contradictory mission statement in that it seeks to take the werewolf archetype in new directions while simultaneously embracing a classic presentation of this horror standard. The lycanthropes of Ferals are of the traditional savage and brutal variety – there’s no self-indulgent supernatural touchy-feely nonsense going on here for sure – yet there’s also more to these creatures than your run-of-the-mill lunar metamorphs. What Lapham has created here is a werewolf subculture; a hidden social group living by its own distinct rules and morality side-by-side, and yet separate, from the rest of humanity. It’s the results of these two worlds overlapping, and the subsequent consequences for both sides, that forms the basic structure of Ferals’ premise.
To any long-term fan of Lapham’s writing it will probably come as no surprise that there are crime noir overtones from the outset here. In Dale Chesnutt we have a suitably flawed protagonist; a troubled soul caught up in, and swept away by, circumstances and forces beyond his control. We also have a mysterious femme fatale whose presence acts both as a catalyst for pushing the plot forward and for exploring the werewolf society further. The remote setting of the events depicted in this opening trade only adds to the horror with its sense of isolation and seclusion.
Avatar have never been afraid of pushing boundaries in terms of explicit violence in their horror books and Gabriel Andrade’s detailed visuals make no concessions to the weak of stomach here. He creates an appropriately macabre atmosphere throughout – fitting for a book where so many of the characters are monsters first and werewolves second. And as for those lupine predators themselves, in Andrade’s capable hands they’re far more An American Werewolf in London than Lon Chaney Wolfman; a terrifying, ferocious presence reminding me in no small part of Bill Sienkiewicz's highly effective interpretation of Werewolf By Night in the pages of Moon Knight many years ago.
What is particularly refreshing in Ferals is that the integrity and pacing of the narrative is not compromised by the usual “writing for the trade” mentality that has so blighted American mainstream comic books over the last decade. This first volume ends on a cliffhanger and plenty of dangling plot threads, and in that respect resembles in approach the European album model of publishing far more than it does the usual U.S. trade paperback format. Full of the twists and turns and unpredictable narrative tricks that we’ve come to expect from a David Lapham project, Ferals is a self-consciously gratuitous gorefest hung on a solid character-led story framework.
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