Reading She Wolf, written and drawn by Rich Tommaso, and in particular, the current Black Baptism arc, we have witnessed a cartoonist build on his own aesthetic to the point where he’s even more established as a major development comics. Tommaso has always been hard to categorize, harder to predict in what he’ll set his hand to next, but when you step back and look at that diversity of content, you begin to see the level of his achievement in noir comics, exploitation-style comics, and now in horror. But you don’t have long to wait for something completely different–since he’s revamping a childhood project that got internet fans demanding more–the humorous/violent adult animal comic Spy Seal, featuring British agents and a whole new world for him to draw.
But back to She Wolf: Black Baptism. The final issue of the arc, #8, came out last week, and was therefore the culmination of a plot where by were-woman Gabby has to seek out her were-sister Lizzie in a hellish realm where she’s been captured, and is going to be used as the key sacrificial victim in a rite to make a wolf-woman a demigod. Alongside Gabby is her vampire friend. This is an action-packed issue which gets pretty complex as a team effort to survive the kaiju-like size and scope of the wolf-woman who needs Lizzie’s blood.
But Tommaso shows he can handle a big action sequence with multiple players (as we might have assumed if we’d read Dark Corridor). The colors, particularly, are fantastic choices, working with pastel peach, red, the occasional chalky blue, which keep infusing the comic with a retro, designed feel even as Tommaso’s linework drawing his wolves will capture your imagination. It’s a super-wolf beat down like you haven’t seen before.
But this comic is also a redemption story of sorts. If you want to get big picture about it, in Black Baptism we have a coming of age story that more savage and brutal than many–both for Lizzie and all the people she savagely murders without the least bit of remorse–until the end. And it’s a story of transformation without a guiding light. Older sister Gabbie had been forced to flee her family due to her own transformation, leaving little sister Lizzie to suffer through it alone, and making bad choices along the way.
The ending of this comic is deceptively simple–Lizzie has to work through her issues or continue to be confused, miserable, and prey to those who would use her powers against her. But Gabby is back in her life and can make a big difference in providing guidance. The best line in this comic, though, is probably, “We’re monsters, Lizzie–It takes time to come to terms with it all”. The word “monsters” has hardly been used in the comic, if at all, so it strikes home with unusual force as you realize it’s true, and of course, it might mean, on a wider level, all people are.
What a great series for She Wolf: Black Baptism–make sure to catch up on one of the most beautiful comics to be published in recent days, from Image Comics.
The trade will be arriving in June, volume one is still available, and after only a short break, in August, we get Rich Tommaso on Spy Seal. Time for a trenchcoat-wearing seal with good dress sense to jump out of planes and dodge enemy agents.
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