Sunday 02nd August 2015,
Comic Booked

Review: Alabaster: Wolves #5

Comic Booked Guest Writer 08/24/2012 ZDONOTUSE

Killing comes naturally to Dancy Flammarion.  Not that she’s an unstoppable monster hunter like Buffy or Blade – in fact she’s not particularly good at it – it’s just that the act seems as normal to her as breathing and eating.  Especially as she’s on a mission from God to fight werewolves, demons, and other creatures of the night.  Her narration is regularly littered with scripture, particularly devoted to Death riding his pale horse (from ​Revelation​) and the “hell that followed after.”  As she and her companions, a foul-mouthed talking bird and Maisie, the ghost of a werewolf Dancy killed, are herded by other wolves to a final showdown with their leader Fortescue.

"...Turns out, it serves another."As I said, though, this isn’t quite like other monster-hunter stories.  Dancy isn’t a superhuman badass.  Every fight she’s been in, from her showdown with Maisie in the first issue to the conclusion of this mini-series, she’s had to scramble and rely on luck.  By the end, she’s bloody, cut up, bruised, and tired.  More importantly, the very act of murdering another being takes its toll spiritually.  The series up to this point has seen her literally abandoned by the divine (the angel that served as her guide left after having its name revealed by Dancy), and plunged into a hellhole.  Fortescue taunts that, with her albinism, she is Death (brilliantly visualized in Greg Ruth’s cover, depicting an angelic Dancy holding a bloody knife and sporting “wings” made of the pages from an unholy tome), and he goads her into leading his hell.  When she stabs him in a scene that mirrors the brawl in issue one, there isn’t any sense of triumph, but rather desperation.  When it’s over, all Dancy can do is stagger away, lucky to be alive but with her soul just a little more dirty due to circumstances I won’t reveal beyond “wickedness” being inside her.  Caitlin Kiernan and Steve Lieber have demonstrated over these five issues that killing, especially in the name of God, is never righteous, no matter how much you believe it so.

"Every one of them went willingly."Both Dancy and Fortescue are zealots:  she the wrath of God (even when the angel leaves her), and he a false prophet.  Dancy knows scripture and not much else (she mistakes French for Spanish and doesn’t understand mathematics), but stands firm in her mission; Fortescue has knowledge but can only use it to manipulate others for his own twisted ends.  She’s a crusader, he’s a Jim Jones.  There is at least goodness in Dancy, though, as she feels empathy for those she kills:  she only holds back on being sick at the sight of his sacrificed followers so as not to give him pleasure, and expresses guilt over some of the death in her wake.  When the angel returns, silently demanding her to beg for mercy, Dancy knows where she stands, and rejects being led around by anyone who sees her as mere tool.  She unloads all that rage against those same beings into one swing (“I will take no one’s hand, ever again, but… I shine.”), with it scrawled on her in both the expression and posture Lieber draws and in the high-contrast of the blood on her pale skin; Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors have been great this entire series, and they especially shine here.  Dancy’s albinism enhances the sickly nature of her soul as she becomes more pale than her snarky ghost companion.Maisie sassing Dancy.

While Fortescue is Dancy’s opposite, Maisie is her foil, a variable that questions every belief she ever had.  Earlier issues built up the antagonism between her and Dancy, Maisie mocking her zealotry and later expressing anger over the way Dancy “can’t stop killing,” but she needs Dancy to destroy the evil that had so dominated her existence.  That need goes both ways, as Dancy notes Maisie saved her life twice when the angel returns.  When given the choice, she rejects the conditional love of a seraph for the barbed companionship of one that will actually stand with her even when it “ain’t [her] fight.”  At the close of the issue, the two ponder whether anything ever ends, the same way Ozymandias and Dr. Manhattan (also opposites) did at the end of ​Watchmen​. Their worlds are wrecked, but life soldiers on (even in the afterlife).  So must they, with hell following after.

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