Much like movies, comics have long been saddled with adaptations of stories from other media, the two biggest offenders being novels and video games. Most of these adaptations are pretty weak in comparison to their original versions, which is only natural considering they weren’t created specifically for comics. One of the newest additions to the lineup is the comic debut of Caitlin Kiernan’s popular character Dancy Flammarion, who has appeared in several novels and short stories. The new book, Alabaster: Wolves, however, manages to avoid the adaptation curse, probably due in large part to the adaptation being written by Kiernan herself. Since I haven’t read any of the main character’s prose appearances I can’t make a comparison, but read as a stand-alone comic it certainly holds its own.
The story is pretty straightforward, and follows 17-year-old Dancy Flammarion as she travels a post-apocalyptic America slaying supernatural creatures. Now, when you just read the words “post-apocalyptic” and “supernatural creatures,” you probably either got really excited or just rolled your eyes and almost stopped reading. What saves the story from following into the realm of cliché, however, is the great moral ambiguity presented in the story, and the lack of glamour with regards to her “dirty work.” Dancy is tired of her role as monster-slayer, her guardian angel is as fearsome and terrifying as any of the monsters she faces, and some of the monsters are actually somewhat sympathetic. All of this leads to Dancy to begin questioning everything she’s done as well as her very existence, and is a welcome change from the “kill the monsters and don’t ask questions” style of story this genre unfortunately often ends up taking. The characterization is also very well done; Dancy’s internal conflict is less of a tortured John Constantine, than, say a teenage girl forced into slaying monsters for a hideous flame-engulfed angel, and for all her moments of fierce martial aptitude, there are just as many where we see just how fragile she really is. Kiernan’s background in writing has also given her a great ear for dialogue, and the characters all have distinctive, interesting voices.
Steve Lieber’s art here isn’t really anything to write home about, but it suits the story well. Of note is the skill with which Lieber is able to capture the subtlety of Dancy’s various expressions, as well as the grim and desolate areas Dancy finds herself in.
Alabaster: Wolves will probably appeal to fans of the Alabaster series, but it’s worth checking out for newcomers as well. Dancy’s personal history isn’t given much explanation here, but I liked that aspect of the book; Kiernan gives us just enough information to keep us intrigued, while at the same time reinforcing the fact that Dancy is forever cut off from the life she once knew. For fans of the genre, check this one out. For everyone else, maybe borrow it from your friend first.