This last week a new horror series titled Ferals from Avatar Press roared into comic shops. Ferals is a horror story in the most conventional sense, with lycanthropes (or werewolves in the popular vernacular) taking center stage in a way that would have set the Comics Code Authority into a frenzy in the days of old. As I predicted when I first reported the announcement of Ferals here on Comic Booked, these werewolves are of the vicious predator variety; not the scary – but for all the wrong reasons, team Jacob variety. This new title is written by David Lapham with art by Gabriel Andrade, and looks promising. I warn you now that like many Avatar Press titles, this one is intended for a mature audience (or immature adults such as myself that aren’t easily offended by gore and a little nudity).
Ferals #1 opens with Cypress, Minnesota law enforcement officer Dale Chesnut investigating the gore-strewn trailer of his friend Mark. There is blood everywhere and an arm that has been separated from a torso still holding a coffee cup, but no body to be found in the trailer. Mark’s ex-wife Jackie reported the scene to the police, but isn’t too sad about whatever tragedy befell her drunk, deadbeat, former husband. Lapham expertly manages to introduce the reader to the story, as well as to start fleshing out the characters through dialogue in just the first few pages. Searching the woods, Mark’s body is finally found dismembered (literally with his, ahem, member ripped off and creatively placed somewhere else).
Afterward, knocking back the drinks in the local bar and mourning the loss of his friend, Dale ponders the fact that no wild animal was responsible for this grisly act. By the time Dale is quite intoxicated, a strange woman named Gerda appears in the bar. She is morbidly curious to learn details about the scene in the woods, and willing to use her feminine wiles to do so. As if all of these events don’t present a wide enough range of possibilities from which the story can unfold, Lapham throws one more curveball into the mix when Dale shows up later at Jackie’s house, and the two seem quite familiar! Thankfully before the reader’s mind explodes pondering all of these factors, a werewolf shows up and the ensuing events close out the first issue.
If the rest of the series is as good as this first installment, Ferals should definitely be a winner. The art and the writing work great together and manage to convey the story completely through illustrations and dialogue with no need for outside text to keep it all on the rails. I don’t think that I am familiar with Gabriel Andrade’s previous work, but the art in Ferals will have me looking for his other comic books. From the awesome wraparound cover, to the crisp, menacing black and white lycanthrope on the title page, to the sequential art itself, I was quite pleased with the artwork. Every panel is filled up with detail and actual illustration – blank panel backgrounds of sky are very few and far between here. The characters and the werewolves look solid. I love how Andrade draws and inks the folds and shadows in clothing and fabrics. Really nice job on the art! At a time when page rates seem to be falling, more and more often I am starting to see comic art suffer, and it is just so refreshing to see an artist and publisher really make an effort to put out quality work. Even though many classic and familiar elements of horror fiction are present (small town cop out in the middle of nowhere, werewolves) Lapham has introduced the reader to a story that has many possibilities and feels unique. I think I know what direction this tale might take, and eagerly await the next installment to find out if my suspicions are correct. Ferals #1 is a great debut issue, and I will definitely be picking this series up!