With sharp scripting by Moreci and Daniel and blistering art from Rossmo and Lorimer, the opening issue of Curse, a four-parter from BOOM! Studios, takes a relevant and contemporary look at one of the mainstay icons of horror: the werewolf.
Now I’m not the horror guy around here any more than I was the superhero guy. However, keen to try something new, and encouraged by some of the stuff to have come recently out of BOOM! Studios (such as Hit, Deceivers and Suicide Risk), I took a punt on Curse #1. And I’m glad I did, because it’s a well-executed take on a classic strand of the genre: the werewolf.
Written by Michael Moreci and Tim Daniel, Curse tells the tale of Laney Griffin, a down-on-his-luck single father in a remote rural community. His son Jaren is suffering from leukaemia and (in a chilling dystopian world where life-saving medical treatment is only available to those who can afford it) Laney is finding it hard to make ends meet – so much so that his sister-in-law, local police chief Nora, is keen to take custody of Jaren.
However, Laney is a man with a plan. Following a series of savage murders in the surrounding countryside, a bounty is on offer for anyone who can bring in the perpetrator. When the desperate father sets off into the woods to hunt down his quarry, what he finds turns his life upside down and threatens everything he holds dear. Indeed, thanks to the issue’s flashback structure, it’s clear from the start that capturing the killer is the point at which Laney’s problems are really just beginning.
This is a neatly scripted book, building up characterisation and tension rather than piling on the sensational splatter. Laney, a former college football hero, is still haunted by the injury that derailed his career, and while his devotion to his son is clear, we can also see the viewpoint of Nora, whose benefits package could better support Jaren’s treatment. Meanwhile, Nora herself is under pressure as she comes up to re-election and the murders remain unsolved.
However, the real treat of this issue is the textured artwork of Riley Rossmo and Colin Lorimer. It’s not clear how the work was divided; I’d have struggled to recognise any link with the energetic and more cartoony style that Rossmo uses in Drumhellar (Image). Here, to resort to one of those comparisons that are lazy but useful, his work with Lorimer appears more like a cross between Jock and Michael Lark.
It strikes a perfect balance between the weighty realism of Laney’s domestic scenes and the more stylised dynamic sections when the story plunges into the horrific. There are nice choices in the colouring as well; the restrained palette works very well in the two scenes featuring the killer in the forest.
The crass lack of humanity or empathy that shows up in a lot of horror stuff – especially in visual media such as films and comics – is thankfully absent from Curse. In fact, tying in with the tacit criticism of the US healthcare system, the things that the lycan hates most about us are the kindness and compassion that makes us human:
“Man is the only beast that will do almost anything to preserve the weak… Your misplaced sympathies instinctually compel you to save the infirm, to cure the ills of the sock, to defy nature’s will.”
This is what Laney is fighting for, and while the lycan sees it as our weakness, it’s actually our greatest strength.
Spending most of my time on book-length material, I enjoy the gear-change of picking up the odd floppy, and Curse fits the format just right: a short, sharp burst of storytelling. It’s also nice that it’s clearly flagged as a four-parter, heading swiftly towards a conclusion.
This is another fine release from BOOM!, and if the remaining issues match the standard of the opener, Curse will be a story with a bit of bite!
Michael Moreci & Tim Daniel (W), Riley Rossmo & Colin Lorimer (A) • BOOM! Studios, $3.99, January 15, 2014