Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Strangeways Murder Moon

Set shortly after the Civil War, Strangeways: Murder Moon is a traditional werewolf horror tale set in the American Frontier.

Ex-Army Officer Seth Collins and his friend Web are driving a stagecoach and some passengers towards the town of Silver Branch as night falls. Rumors and tall tales in the area tell of a deadly, unkillable wolf who has a taste for human flesh. It isn't long before the wolf attacks their stagecoach, killing or injuring the passengers, and injuring Web in the process as well. With their cargo dead, and an injured man of the cloth slowly dying in a clearing, Web decides to head to town to get help from the Sheriff. Collins is forced to endure a night alone in the woods with only a cutlass to protect him from the wolf. At daybreak the sheriff and his deputies arrive, and Collins accompanies them back to town. There Collins finds a populace living in fear of the wolf, while the sheriff seems to be in denial about the threat.

Later that night, the wolf strikes again. By the end, the town has one less family and the Sheriff decides to pin the killings on Web, who mysteriously went missing during the attack. Murmurs of a werewolf begin to make the rounds, and the sheriff is determined to hang Web for the killings. Now Collins must set out alone to hunt for the wolf and save his friend.

Strangeways: Murder Moon has a great concept going for it, but it lacks in delivery. I liked the idea of setting a werewolf story in the American frontier, but there wasn't anything to make the idea really special or lasting. The whole plot proved to be too straight forward for me, and ended up feeling pretty generic. The suspense and horror of the opening scene never showed up in force again for the rest of the book, and that was too bad, because the opening scene was quite good.

The story, by Matt Maxwell, didn't get much help from the art either, and that was the main weakness of the story. There were a few instances where the black and white art by Luis Guaragna would be beautifully rendered and amazing, but far too often it was bogged down by way too many lines, and too much black ink. I often had a hard time telling just what the hell was going on in each panel, and when that is happening page after page, it really starts to take away from the reading/viewing experience.

The graphic novel wasn't without a couple bright spots though. There's an origin story of sorts at the end, titled Rale: Alone which tells of how the werewolf antagonist of the book came to be such a vile beast. This story was a pretty good sized improvement on the writing front, and benefited from the great artwork of Gervasio and Jok. The other sweet little savory nugget is the pin up gallery, featuring the art of Guy Davis, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. Some nice stuff there. Oh, and I should mention that Steve Lieber did some sweet cover work for this graphic novel too.

All in all this was a let down for me. What with it being October and all, I was hoping for a scary werewolf story, but this one didn't deliver. The plotting was just too generic and the art was pretty rough on my eyes. If it wasn't for the few little nuggets I mentioned earlier, this would have been a fail, instead it just barely gets a passing grade.


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