Mercy Thompson is back, stuck in the middle between two warring packs of werewolves. The characters are compelling and entertaining, but much of this issue is spent with dust settling and characters talking. David Lawrence delivers a good story resplendent with strong characters, but some of the characters stray a little too close to cliche. After all, haven't we seen a battle between warring factions of supernatural creatures a time or two before? Orson Park is a stereotypical baddie cut from the same cloth as Dietrich from BOOM! Studios' "Hexed" -- so much so that they could be related in a weird behind the scenes kinda way. Of course, one could argue that almost every story with a skirmish is staggered in cliche from stories before. This time, however, the Jets and the Sharks are portrayed by two packs werewolves -- one our female protagonist once ran with and one her former pack has now run into.
This issue, fortunately or not so, was marked with the passing of the baton from one artist to another. Francis Tsai has departed this title, leaving it in the more Impressionistic hands of Amelia Woo. Woo's focus in every panel is the figure or figures present, frequently making the backgrounds seem like afterthoughts. This works as a strength in many instances, but also distracts and makes the overall composition weaker in the same stroke. Woo's application of her talents is far different from Tsai's and it shows here, making this issue feel almost unrelated to the two that have come prior. Woo applies some effort to the page to render the characters very similarly, but the overall treatment of the book is equivalent to comparing Goya to Picasso's blue period. Each has their merits, but put the two together and the transition is not a natural one. That said, Woo's technique is strong and he storytelling is effective, she just needs to strengthen composition between foreground and background.
Speaking of which, this issue is solidly entrenched in the tale from the previous issues, although it is not impenetrable to a newer reader. The general gist of the story is strong enough for any reader who happens to find this title in their read pile. The downside is that we're now three-quarters into the story and three-quarters into explaining what's going on.
This title, to this point has been quite strong. Unfortunately, however, driven by the change in artists, this title seems as though it is suffering some pretty heady growing pains in this penultimate issue. I have faith in the work Lawrence has shown me so far and hope that Woo's art catches up to the story and finds a way to make "Mercy Thompson" her own, rather than a shadow of the "Mercy Thompson" that Francis Tsai introduced us to. I've invested a great deal into this series, and for the most part I've been pleased with my investment. I just hope the payout is as good as I anticipate.