She Wolf Volume 1 was released by Image Comics just before the holiday season, and what a collection it was. It told the story of teenager Gabby as she wrestled with the murderously dangerous transformation into a werewolf and initiation into a world of witches and demons. Set in a seemingly 80’s styled world, the She Wolf series harks backs to 80’s coming of age teen dramas and the role of teens in horror movies of the same era. Rich Tommaso, who is both writer and illustrator on the series, has such a fiendishly wide-ranging imagination that you almost never know what you are going to encounter from page to page in She Wolf, and this new series, which landed on January 18th, is no exception.
Tommaso has made a smart choice in constructing the story as essentially a separate mini-series in “Black Baptism”, so totally new readers can fully appreciate the story they are reading as well as those who followed Gabby’s plight in issues 1-4. Though it’s numbered as issues #5, Part One of Black Baptism actually follows the life of Gabby’s younger sister Lizzie, who is also now coming of age and facing a potential change toward werewolfish.
But interestingly, Lizzie is not Gabby in personality type and so this is clearly going to be a very different story, as the dark series title suggests. When we encounter Lizzie in this new arc, she’s becoming increasingly wild and rebellious, and it’s probably not due purely to the call of the wild. She’s just a more risk-taking and nonchalant young woman than Gabby was, and so far less prone to self-doubt and fear. That opens up exciting avenues in storytelling since Lizzie might be one to stand up to the supernatural forces she faces rather than accepting their authority over her.
Like other issues of She Wolf, Tommaso’s artwork is just stunning and highly original, while preserving many aspects of traditional cartooning. Each panel is constructed as carefully as a full-page spread with every crisp line of inking or block of color remarkably balanced. I’ve noticed that in this issue his artwork is even more confident and direct, however, suggesting that She Wolf is really hitting its stride as a series. Tommaso also dives into some impressive experimentation with double-page spread panel relationships, often prompting the reader to read the upper half of the spread from left to right on both pages before following a wandering trajectory fully back to the lower left and then finishing their read from left to right. In essence, a reverse “Z” pattern.
Part Two of Black Baptism, also contained in the same issue of the comic, presents a different period and setting. We learn the story is taking place somewhere in central Europe in the Middle Ages, and we make the first tentative steps toward understanding a wider werewolf mythology that might be operating within the “present day” of the comic as well. I look forward to learning more about that, but meanwhile was delighted to see Tommaso’s artistic take on a Conan the Barbarian-like world of sword and sorcery. Also spicing up this issue are some glorious pin-ups by other comic artists, including a set of two by Mike Allred and Laura Allred that will make you wish there was a poster version, and also one by the talented horror artist Denis St. John, which brings in some softer linework and colors.
I was already looking forward to the return of She Wolf, but this issue has far exceeded my expectations in setting up a new, bolder tone for the series and taking us much further into the mythology of She Wolf than I could have hoped.
You can find out more about She Wolf Volume 1, right here, and can check out Rich Tommaso’s on Twitter here. She Wolf issue #6 is due out in shops February 22nd, and is currently listed in Previews World right here.