The small town of Cypress, Lake County, Minnesota. A man is found torn to shreds on the mountain, and his friend is the only person who cares; his friend is also the police in town, Officer Dale Chesnutt, a drunk and a womaniser, who wants to find whoever killed his buddy. That night, Dale gets angry-drunk, hooks up with a strange woman in the bar and gets intimate with her in the bathrooms, before ending up later at the home of his buddy’s ex-wife, where they console each other intimately. However, the morning is the worst comedown ever – the ex-wife is slaughtered by a werewolf, who claws Dale before it is scared off and Dale is now the prime suspect in the murder of both women.
This story starts out as a murder mystery with the horror element added, but there is more to this tale than just a simple genre mash-up. Lapham said in an interview that ‘the idea was to do werewolves differently’, with the starting point of ‘what if werewolves were a people more than just monsters?’ He has certainly achieved what he set out to do – this is a very different take on the werewolf concept. This isn’t the usual bite infections and silver bullets – this is something older and more unusual, involving a small, close-knit community in a smaller town in Minnesota with a dislike of outsiders and a tough manner in dealing with them. It’s a novel approach, one I haven’t seen before, and it opens up a different avenue to explore – this collection is a complete story, but it hints at a bigger world beyond these six issues (it is an ongoing series), something that is also suggested by the involvement of two men in black characters who know more about what is going on.
The book is not for kids – there is violence (werewolves tearing off limbs and mutilating bodies), nudity, sex and swearing – and there is an element of a 1980s film to it, but it’s a little more highbrow than that. The art helps – it doesn’t veer towards the titillating, although it does occasionally veer towards sexy. I’ve never seen any work by Andrade before, but he’s a solid artist and a good find for Avatar – he’s a strong storyteller, with a clear style and no flash or unnecessary flourishes. The ability to draw talking heads and then shift to extreme and bloody violence is tricky, but he does it with aplomb.
Lapham has created an interesting slant on an old concept and an interesting lead character – Dale is rather unlikable, but with the events of the book transforming him into something more than just a drunk, womanising cop from a small town; I’m glad that he’s still going to be the focus in the next storyline because there’s more to explore. I’m always on the lookout for intriguing combinations of old genres, and I had high hopes for a book mixing werewolves and police, which were definitely met. Ferals is a great little book, and I look forward to future instalments.
Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.