Caitlin Kiernan’s dark stories of a paranormal South are brought to life in this introductory graphic adaptation. I had not previously read the stories this graphic novel is based on. I waited to read them until after I’d read the graphic novel to see how someone new to the author would appreciate it without any background knowledge.
Graphic adaptations are hard, although they seem to be a popular thing for paranormal series right now. If you put in too much information, people who haven’t read the prose books are bored or get nitpicky about how the graphic version doesn’t match the “real” story. If you don’t add enough, new readers are confused by the unfamiliar plots and characters. In my opinion, Kiernan and her artists, Steve Lieber and Rachel Rosenberg, hit a perfect balance.
Dancy Flammarion has been following the dictates of her angel, a terrifying being of flame and fury, as she travels throughout the dark byways of the South, killing the creatures of evil that populate its hidden corners. Werewolves and more have fallen to her knife, but when she meets and destroys one particularly strange werewolf in an abandoned town, she finds things aren’t quite what they seem. After some of the things she’s seen and done, she’s begun to lose faith in her angel, but the ensuing events will change her life forever.
Kiernan’s story is full of Scriptural references and atmospheric tension. Dancy is a figure of both fear and pity as she struggles against her destiny and beliefs, trying to choose the right path. Her world is a South of apocalyptic dimensions — hot, dense, and brooding, with a dark evil always under the surface.
Lieber and Rosenberg’s art captures the nightmarish dimensions of Dancy’s battles and the jungle-like atmosphere of the eroded towns, houses, and forests she travels through. Dancy herself is both a weird creature, like the strange beasts she pursues, and still a hurt and lonely teenager. Her many-headed angel fits the many Scripture references and prophetic elements of the stories. These intertwined stories aren’t for the faint of heart. There’s plenty of blood, gore, horror, and themes of broken faith, good, evil, and destruction that are suitable only for more mature readers.
Readers who have enjoyed the True Blood and Anita Blake graphic adaptations will want to read this, even if they haven’t previously encountered Kiernan’s work. It’s a good introduction to her novels and short stories and readers who enjoy the comics will undoubtedly want to follow up with more of her work.
by Caitlin Kiernan
Art by Steve Lieber, Rachel Rosenberg
Dark Horse, 2013