Caitlin R. Kiernan and Steve Lieber could teach a class about how to create a conclusion to a mini-series based on "Alabaster: Wolves" #5. Their comic about Dancy Flammarion trapped in a town infested with werewolves wraps up the first "Alabaster" mini-series, but does so in a way that avoids the ongoing-series-of-mini-series trap readers so often see. In other words, this issue does anything but restore a status quo.
Kiernan demonstrates in "Alabaster: Wolves" #5 that the previous four issues have all led up to this big conclusion of her opening story arc. All three characters -- Dancy, Maisie, and Bird -- have one final big moment lurking around the corner for them, and Kiernan doesn't hold back on that front. Characters end up situations that are worse than when this story began, and Kiernan gets them there in a startling way. The changes are big and sudden and -- just like life itself -- come at the reader with no warning.
Even more important, though, is the big confrontation awaiting Dancy at the end of this issue. The leader of the werewolves in this small town steps front and center into the action this month, and it's a quite memorable extended scene. Both Kiernan and Lieber give the leader a great deal of menace, but in a way that avoids any stereotypical manners. He's strong and powerful, and almost tears through the page through sheer force of will. With every line and every movement, he's near-impossible to ignore.
I also found myself appreciating that Kiernan doesn't overly spell things out, instead just giving the reader enough information to get what's happening and then instantly moving on. The book is narrated by Dancy, and as a result we get only what she'd actually be thinking. The material's all there, and in her own unique voice, and it ends up far more effective than if Dancy lingered over and repeated multiple times what was happening.
It doesn't hurt that Lieber's drawing the book. He's a skilled artist who's excellent at bringing scripts to life. Something as simple as an inset panel in the upper left of the first page works well, pulling the reader's eyes to a close-up on Dancy's face as she wipes her mouth off, then letting us follow the gaze of her eyes to the center of the rest of the panel that this is enclosed by. In doing so, we follow the eyes to the duo in the center of the panel, and only then pull back to see the pack of wolves that are surrounding them. It's a great trick, and it's that sort of control that Lieber excels in. The amount of energy and emotion tied up in Lieber's pencils and inks is impressive, and I hope that he'll be back for the next "Alabaster" mini-series.
"Alabaster: Wolves" was an introduction to the character of Dancy Flammarion to me, as well as a re-introduction to Kiernan's writing. The teaming up of Kiernan and Lieber was a great choice; the pair play off of each other's strengths and they've made "Alabaster: Wolves" a strong debut for the character that makes me desperate to read more. Hopefully we'll get that soon. If you didn't read "Alabaster: Wolves" you've missed out on one of the creepier mini-series of the year.