Two issues into “Alabaster: Wolves” and I’m finding myself utterly hooked. It’s hard not to be; with a gripping story by Caitlin R. Kiernan and beautiful art from Steve Lieber, this modern day horror story pushes all the right buttons. What’s nice about this issue is that it looks forward and back in Dancy’s story, and in both directions it’s just as entrancing.
After last month’s violent debut, Kiernan picks up more or less right where we left off: Dancy’s still in an abandoned town deep in the south, accompanied by a smart-alec blackbird and low on assets and hope. The teases we get of her past encounters with monstrous beings start to pay off here; we see one of her earlier kills, and in doing so Kiernan and Lieber show us that they can go untraditional and crazy just as easily as they showed us the more recognizable werewolf from “Alabaster: Wolves” #1. The scene in the trailer grabs your attention right away with the way that Lieber creates the unreal nature of the woman inside its walls, and it’s a good reminder that just like Dancy’s monstrous angel, anything is possible here.
At the same time, “Alabaster: Wolves” doesn’t have to go all-monster all-the-time to be gripping. Dancy and a talking bird sitting in an abandoned diner is surprisingly engrossing. Kiernan’s got the rhythm of Dancy’s speech patterns down perfectly (not that surprising when you remember that originally Dancy was created for the world of prose), and lines as simple as, “Okay, bird’s got a point” are delivered with just the right timing and dryness that in context it’s hard to not laugh when it occurs.
We’re also delving deeper into the rich supernatural backstory of the world of “Alabaster” with this issue. The hints of Dancy’s grandmother teaching her about binding runes, the idea that they’re drawn on walls to look like graffiti in an sort of hobo code… this is a landscape that Kiernan’s plotted out carefully in her mind, and getting to wander through it bears both similarity and differences from our own reality. By the time Kiernan shifts us into the ruined church, drawn in a way by Lieber that should set off all the internal alarms of the reader, we’re so fully immersed that it’s almost (but not quite) disappointing to get to the big confrontation of the issue because we’re getting such great material in these quieter moments.
That said, the confrontation is great, too. Like last month’s riddle game, there’s nothing simple or expected about Dancy’s fight with these monsters. Lieber draws the action as swift and brutal, and every time you think you know what’s going to happen next, Lieber draws something a little more ugly and unexpected than before. His mapping out of Kiernan’s script works well, able to bring Dancy’s quiet determined nature to light in a way that speaks even louder than words.
“Alabaster: Wolves” #2 is just as good… actually, strike that. “Alabaster: Wolves” #2 is even better than the first issue. Kiernan and Lieber are a natural pairing of creative talent, and I hope this mini-series is the first of many from the pair. “Alabaster: Wolves” is officially my favorite southern supernatural horror series. Lots more, please.