Mixing myth, Mexican culture and murderous teenage girls, Coyotes is the perfect revenge fantasy for today’s world. Taking place in the City of Lost Girls, somewhere along the US/Mexico border, coyotes are terrorizing the community, hunting and killing women and children. But a group of women calling themselves Victorias step up and take their lives back. The hunters become the hunted.
We first meet Red in an amazing double page spread. She standing, bloody but strong, in a sea of mangled bodies. There are so many of them that we can’t even see the floor. They’re mostly human, apart from one coyote head right in the middle. Behind Red is the new cop in town, Frank Coffey, just entering through the door and rightfully horrified by what he sees. Coffey picks Red up and takes her back to the station, trying to get some answers, but he’s clearly not ready for the answers that Red could provide.
Most of the issue takes place in flashbacks; even flashbacks within flashbacks. We see Red before she was Red, when she was called Analia. Living with her mother and her sister, Maria, Analia was carefree. She wanted to be outside, explore the city, and have fun with her older sister — like all young girls do. But the coyotes came for her family, taking first her sister and then her mother. And Analia was changed.
On the page that shows the coyotes coming after Maria, the animals slowly creep into the panels taking over more and more space until they break panel boundaries and completely overwhelm both Maria and the reader. It’s a powerful image. Caitlin Yarsky handles all the art herself, including line work, color, and lettering, and she does an excellent job. Between her art and Lewis’s script, a confusing timeline is made actually quite easy to follow.
Analia escaped with her neighbor, another young girl, and they found an abandoned train station to live in. And the Duchess found them, bringing them into the fold of this group of wild warrior women. The Duchess is surprising, a mysterious figure who is entirely too pristine and classy for everything that’s going on. She wears a hat, a veil, and a glorious gown with a small bustle. Even her speech bubbles are embellished, a like a fancy engraved frame around her words. But underneath all that is a fiery rage burning for these coyotes. She turns Analia into Red, her little assassin, named for the blood she will draw from monsters.
It’s the perfect reading for anyone who’s drowning in the deluge sexual harassment and assault news that seems unending after the Weinstein story broke. We know Red gets revenge. She, the Duchess, and her cohorts can all see beyond the lies to see who these horrific supernatural coyotes really are, and they actually have the power to stop them. The cops in this story as ineffectual as they sometimes seem in real life, white dudes who just cannot understand the lived experiences of women of color, but these women take care of themselves and their own. It’s cathartic to read.
Coffey isn’t a completely unlikable character; we learn more about how he ended up in the City of Lost Girls in a backup story at the end of the issue. Underneath his gruff exterior, he cares about victims; he’s so noir his story is told entirely in black and white. He wants to do good, but he’s stuck in a system that only lets him do so much.
As mythic as this story is, it’s very much situated in the real world. There are clues everywhere, like Red listening to Beyonce and Dolly Parton as she trains with a sword. It’s also no coincidence that “coyote” is slang for those who smuggle people across the border. While it has a different meaning in Coyotes, it comes from a real place where women and children disappear all the time.
I have so many questions about this story and this world, and I loved this issue so much I went back and read it again immediately after finishing it. It’s a revenge fantasy in which women take their power back, unmask monsters, and destroy evil. Given all the evil in our world right now, it’s coming at a perfect time.