David Lapham and artist Gabriel Andrade's "Ferals" #9 delves deeper into the unique brand of lycanthropic horror presented in the series and is an issue anyone can pick up to read. Amidst violence and sexually charged confrontations, secret origins of the Feral bloodline are revealed with a seemingly more complex political structure of the werewolf community.
Throughout this series Lapham has dropped information expanding the mythos of his werewolves, known as Ferals. Displaying traits more commonly associated with vampires, the Ferals are conniving and manipulative but even more primal and savage. Lapham has never shied away from violence or sex, particularly in his Avatar work. Whereas vampires make their killings a seductive dance, the Ferals grab their prey with a hunters instinct and act like the last surviving animal of their species, leaving a bloody mess in their wake.
To this effect, Lapham dances on the line of reader tolerance with this issue. For the first time "Ferals" feels like it's creeping into "Caligula" or "Crossed" territory with its near over the top scenarios and violence. For instance, the opening scene features a Senator getting involved with a Feral woman and he is then converted to their ranks after raping and devouring a teenage girl off panel. We don't see this Senator again in the issue, which is strange because the scene sets up an interesting motive for the Ferals to pursue later, but ends up being another shock moment in a horror comic.
With any modern David Lapham book, especially ones under the Avatar banner, a certain level of gore and in-your-face violence is expected. To that point, a reason why "Ferals" has been consistently enjoyable is both these elements (and the sex) have enhanced or progressed the story with impacting results. Unfortunately here, the elements of fan service are hard to miss with goofy moments of urinal murder and teen coercion. Depending on where you stand with this type of thing in your horror style of choice, when the chips fall the result will either delight you in its savagery or turn you away by being too ludicrous.
Consistent with earlier issues, Lapham does a nice job playing off the tropes of natural wolves with his characters -- pack mentality, a hierarchy with an alpha dog, welcoming strays into the pack, tracking prey and most prominently, acting on the urge to breed. I like Lapham's choice to avoid narrative, telling the story entirely through dialogue with zero thought balloons. Too bad on the last page he spells out a reveal an attentive reader wouldn't have missed.
Andrade's art is clean and sharp. He captures the look of the Ferals in human form, doing particularly nice work with expressions -- his faces show range -- but in scenes lacking action his characters look stiff below the neck. Andrade's werewolves are terrifying and his gore is detailed, but with this issue he leaves the impression his best work is yet to come. Digikore Studios provides an appropriate palate for the series, particularly with shading the Ferals darker than normal humans, but pays little attention to lighting or mood. This is unfortunate given both elements are essential in any horror book and could push this series up a notch if tended to.
For fans of horror there's plenty to like here -- gore, twisted cheese and nudity. "Ferals" is a fun romp and a guilty pleasure werewolf series if taken for what it is. It's certainly at the top of its class as far as lycanthrope comics go and has potential to fill a void for horror fans. For everyone else this issue runs the risk of being too gratuitous, over the top and downright disturbing.