Just to be clear from the start: this is not a comic version of a Tony Hillerman novel. Skinwalker does combine some of the same elements of those tales: grim Navajo legends apparently come to life, a reluctant partnership, this time between a member of the Navajo Tribal Police and a FBI hotshot profiler on the way to the top. Gregory Haworth just wants to get to the point where he can do his work and get the credit for it with his own team, but a mysterious plea from an old partner leads him, on his last few days of vacation, to Dinehotso within Navajo Country. Despite getting off on entirely the wrong foot with local officer Anne Adakai, Haworth insists on staying once his old partner is discovered hideously murdered — skinned alive. Covering everything from myths to procedure and all the emotions that can get tangled up in intense investigations and opposing cultures, Skinwalker is a welcome addition to the piles of crime and horror comics out there. Hurtt’s delicate penciling alongside Dela Cruz’s rich graytones lend the whole visual a suitably oppressive air and make the horror all the more overwhelming. Echoing the X-Files and FBI profiler tales everywhere, Skinwalker nonetheless maintains a solid and engaging tale surrounding two very believably hard-assed and vulnerable characters fighting for the truth against more enemies than they bargained for. On top of all that, without any fanfare, Skinwalker finally allows for some diversity in our comics heroes, featuring a Navajo woman who is neither ridiculously mythical nor love-interest-only material. Her biting, conflicted, intelligent personality alone is worth the read. The horror is very true, here, as well — rather than slasher antics, Skinwalker is filled with suspense and just enough gore to give you a glimpse of the horror without being prurient or stomach-turning.
by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
Art by Brian Hurtt and Arthur Dela Cruz
Oni Press 2003