"Alabaster: Wolves" #1 is one of those rare, enchanting books that comes out of nowhere and absolutely demands to be shared. Dancy Flammarion is a teenager with a past filled with fighting and killing monsters. She talks to birds and has a rough time remembering where she's coming from or where she's going. She also has a terrific knack for finding trouble or, more appropriately, being found by trouble.
With lines like, "Junk gets precious when junk is all you got left," Caitlin R. Kiernan easily and sharply defines her heroine for us. Dancy comes across as a strong character, albeit a severely damaged one, who quickly ingratiates herself to the reader through internal monologue as well as dialog with a redwing blackbird. Yes, she talks to birds and they talk back -- or at least this one in particular does. Met by a stranger who smells like wet dog (which seems like an apt olfactory description for a werewolf) seeking answers and, perhaps, retribution, Dancy's conversation tells us everything we need to know about where our heroine came from and where she might be going. Essentially, the reader is dropped into the story right alongside Dancy and is quickly brought up to speed about her world, her circumstances and her dark angel at just the right time to learn the most vital information.
Steve Lieber's artwork is dark and moody, well-suited for an encounter between a werewolf and an angel of death at a desolate bus stop in South Carolina. Combined with Rachelle Rosenberg's colors, Lieber is able to vividly describe to the reader who our antagonist is and who we should be truly cheering for, simply through the art. If the words didn't exist in this comic, there is no doubt we'd still get the message. As it is, Kiernan's story masterfully enhances the art and Lieber's art beautifully feeds the story. It's been a little while since I've had the chance to absorb some of Lieber's work, but when the wait pays off like this, it makes it all worthwhile. In addition to drawing the comic, Lieber also provides the lettering, which smoothes out the presentation nicely. Some caption boxes seem a little oddly-spaced, but for the vast majority of this chapter, Lieber planned out the pages and paced the storytelling wonderfully.
As a final note in the issue, Kiernan and Lieber offer a peek behind the curtain, citing the muse (or rather music) that inspired them throughout their creative process. This adds a nice touch to the comic book and also provides an answer to a question that wasn't asked here, but surely may have been asked in a related interview.
As a reprieve from capes and tights comics, this book succeeds. As a horror-tinged suspense comic, this book excels. "Alabaster: Wolves" is the beginning of something new, a fresh take on the terrible creatures that lurk in the shadows and one of the protectors who keep those monsters from us. I'm hoping this is the beginning of a series of adventures featuring Dancy. If Kiernan and Lieber continue to bring us stories of this magnitude, I'll be right there, snapping them up.