Strangeways: Murder Moon Review

Matt Maxwell's original graphic novel (originally intended to go through Speakeasy before they folded, so Maxwell self-published it), with artwork by Luis Guaragña (plus chapter illustrations and a cover by the great Steve Lieber, not to mention pin-ups by Guy Davis, Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá!!!) is an intriguing tale about werewolves in a small American frontier town in the late 1800s.

What is especially notable about this story is how Maxwell pulls an "Anatomy Lesson" on his own story, all in the pages of a 144 page comic.

If only the book had stronger artwork...

Great cover by Lieber, who does his usual awesome work on the chapter illustrations.

The story is about a man who comes to a small frontierstown after the war to meet up with his estranged sister. On the way there, their stagecoach is besieged by a werewolf who kills most of the people in their coach, except the protagonist (Seth) and the driver (Webb).

Once in town, Webb is accused of the murders, and Seth must find a way to save his friend while also staying alive, all the while trying to stay out of trouble with the local sheriff, who seems to be quite shady.

Maxwell plays nicely with the idea that these are people who don't know anything about werewolves, so they have no idea how to stop this monster. Imagine fighting a vampire without knowing its weaknesses at all - that's what these people are dealing with here.

Maxwell also does a very nice job with the horror, especially with the introduction of the werewolf in chapter one (which you can read for free here - PDF format).

What Maxwell is hurt most by is his artist, Luis Guaragña, who for the most part does a competent job, but there are times when he fails one of the most basic aspects of sequential art - he gets in the way of Maxwell's story.

There is a fight scene where the artwork makes it practically illegible what is going on - if it were not for dialogue and just general context, I would have had no idea what was happening. That's a major problem.

Luckily, Maxwell's story is strong enough for the first part of the story (the basic werewolf attacking a small Western town story) to be interesting, with a great confluence of events leading to the finale.

But it's the second part of the graphic novel that really stands out, as once the first story is over, Maxwell turns the whole thing on its ears by giving us the origin of the werewolf, and it is extremely well done, basically like if the novel Grendel was at the end of Beowulf.

I was extremely impressed with that story. And the artwork for that story by different art team, Gervasio/Jok, was also better.

In the end, I think the second story was so cool that the entire project is worth reading.

So Recommended.

Here's the Diamond ordering code if your retailer needs it: JAN083670

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