Despite opening the second volume in a series, the first issue of Matt Wigner and Simon Bisley’s “The Tower Chronicles, Book 2” is surprisingly friendly to new readers. There is an intimidating paragraph of backstory and recap on the title page, but don’t be dissuaded: what follows is a cut-and-dry, fun-to-read monster killing story. As an issue that’s more about mythic adventure than further character or world building development, it may disappoint fans looking for growth off Book 1, but it’s a fine ride and a fun start to “Dreadstalker.”
The issue opens on two Canadian teens, idly delinquent and unapologetically foul-mouthed, who’ve come into the woods to take Facebook photos with a dead moose. Instead, they find a menacing wendigo. Though I initially figured they were mere plot placeholders, the hapless victims that signal an impending monster, Wagner doesn’t just give them the one-and-done “Law & Order” treatment. He actually spends quite a few pages where it’s only them, and he differentiates between the two predictably if effectively. The boy, Randy, is a giddy show-off, while Claire is more sullen and scared. Since there isn’t much else going on in the issue besides the wendigo, it’s smart to give the reader more to care about in these teens.
When the wendigo arrives, Simon Bisley and Ryan Brown do a fine job with the creature design. It’s basically a shaggy, clawed abominable snowman, but the sunken eyes and antlers-meet-tree-trunk horns give it a woodsier, eerier look. Bisley also lets the design carry into the creature’s physicality. When the wendigo fights, its slams its oversized, clawed hands around like unwieldy clubs. There’s even a giggle-worthy moment when it tries to delicately pick at its bonds with two claws.
However, the human faces in this issue don’t have much variety between them. The characters’ bodies move readably, but their faces don’t emote unless in extremes. In addition, the texturing of their skin goes from shiny to papery without much explanation. These elements take away from the quality of the artwork.
It’s also true that the reader doesn’t see much character development for either John Tower or Alicia Hardwicke, as they really just pop in to save the day, but their same dynamic persists. John’s dialogue could admittedly be somewhat confusing for new readers, as he doesn’t explain who “you” is or what he’s seeking. So while I maintain that the issue is friendly to new readers, it isn’t explicitly designed for them.
With both Alicia and John providing voiceovers, letterer Sean Konot is given a lot to do. Readers who are unfamiliar with flipping between the two voices — John and Alicia — might be initially confused when the text treatment for Alicia’s internal monologues suddenly appears. (Heck, even the first appearance of John’s might startle.) Konot does not try to be subtle in differentiating between the two voices, which feels like the right choice when flipping between them often and without announcement. My only complaint is that his onomatopoeia effect for the wendigo’s shriek does not suggest the spleen-rupturing terror that the text describes. It’s a touch too cartoony.
Taken altogether, “The Tower Chronicles: Dreadstalker” #2 is neither exceptional nor excruciating. It’s an enjoyable introduction to this universe for new readers, with enough hints to old developments for seasoned fans.