Review time! with ‘Bloody Moon’

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“Got a curse I cannot lift; shines when the sunset shifts”

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Jake Cavalle sent me his graphic novel, Bloody Moon, a few months ago, and of course it’s taken me this long to get to it! You can find Bloody Moon at the link above, where it will cost you no more than 16 dollars (I assume that’s for a print version; the digital version is less, I should think). If you don’t think this is a werewolf comic, well, you really should pay more attention to titles!

Bloody Moon is, of course, a werewolf comic, but it’s a werewolf comic set in the Old West, which automatically makes it a bit more interesting than your standard werewolf comic (how to make something a bit more interesting than your regular story: set it in a time period that we don’t associate with said story). It’s also a bit of a mystery, as the town of (sigh) Redemption (no subtlety here!) is visited by many different groups all at once, and soon after the werewolf attacks begin. Hot on the heels of the monster is a posse of U.S. Marshals who form a special task force the aim of which is solely to hunt the wolf. But they arrive in town right when the attacks begin, so even they’re suspect …

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Cavalle gives us some interesting people. The marshal in Redemption, Samuel Severn (why isn’t he a sheriff?), is a decent sort, treating the Indians who live on the margins of the town fairly, breaking up fights, and welcoming everyone into town. Arriving in town is a troupe of actors, who as we know are always suspicious because of their Bohemian lifestyle; a traveling preacher and his daughter, who as we know are suspicious because they preach fire and brimstone and can’t let people live they way they want to, maaaaaannnnnn; the marshals, who are suspicious just because they’re the group hunting the werewolf so it would be a twist if one of them was the werewolf!!!!!; and, of course, the Indians are always suspicious because they’re so mystical. Cavalle sets them all up as suspects, yet he also has fun undermining them as suspects, until eventually we discover the culprit.

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Cavalle sets this up as a standard horror story – we get the shocking events in the beginning that show us what we’re dealing with and what the marshals have to do to combat it, then we ease into the main story in Redemption, with Cavalle introducing the characters and showing us their different sides. So the actors think the townsfolk are “rubes,” the store owner isn’t nice to the Indian who just wants to spend his money in the store, the preacher seems benign enough but refers to the Indians and actors as “heathens and hedonists,” and we get some strange events that may or may not be significant later on. Cavalle, of course, doesn’t linger too long on these things – there’s people to get disemboweled!!!! – but he does a good job creating a sense of mystery and dread. We know bad things are coming, we just don’t know from where. And when bad things do happen, they happen quickly and bloodily. Cavalle soaks the pages in gore and nudity, just so you know. It works quite well, though – this is an unpleasant situation, and of course, the repression of basic urges is a common theme in werewolf stories, so when those urges are acted upon … look out.

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Cavalle’s art style is fairly rough, which may or may not be to your taste. He does some nice work showing the havoc the werewolf inflicts on people, as the first scene with the marshals coming across a town through which it has gone is harrowing, to say the least. It’s difficult, given his style and the fact that almost every white man has a mustache, for Cavalle to convey emotions, but he does it fairly well simply by moving characters’ eyes around, and it makes the book feel like a stoic Western we’re used to. The biggest problem with the art is its lack of depth – everything looks like it takes place on the same plane, and Cavalle’s use of perspective isn’t great. But he’s a decent storyteller, and the art gets the job done in that regard. Occasionally, the art is better than the story, and sometimes, the story is better than the art. In this case, it’s the latter. It’s an interesting mystery, and the art doesn’t get in the way.

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Bloody Moon isn’t a great comic, but it’s an entertaining one. Cavalle takes stock characters and gives them some life, putting them into a terrifying situation that they aren’t sure if they can handle. Despite the stereotypes he uses, he keeps us guessing with regard to who’s really good and who’s really not, and it’s fun to go along with him.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

2 Comments

  1. Simon

    Story-wise, it doesn’t seem to be “more than just entertainment”, right?

    – “The biggest problem with the art is its lack of depth”

    Stylized art can be great. His use of thick lines and solid blacks reminded me of some nice street-artists, and maybe a little of Italian master Altan (samples). But two things stuck out in the samples:

    (1) Some depth problem indeed, compounded by intersecting lines from different depth layers. On your sample of p. 53 for instance, second-to-last panel, the arms of the green-shirt man and the blue-shirt one seem weirdly conjoined. And even on the cover, I can’t help seeing the forefront man having long hair flowing beside his cheek, even though I know it’s the woman’s.

    (2) Also, these are apparently 6-panel pages, mostly? I think stylized art with few backgrounds and not much narration could be put to better use with more panels, to tell more story per page and have room to deepen characters. (Plenty of counter-examples of course, but beyond the 8- and 9-panel grids, cartoonists from Hergé to Lewis Trondheim to Luke Pearson make 12-panel pages work.)

    There’s certainly promise, but stylization takes time to master.

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