By Jonathan Edwards
I picked up the first issue of She Wolf after seeing Rich Tommaso's art in a preview for the series. The style was a unique, somewhat surreal one, and the promise of a similarly-themed story to match, I was intrigued. The book followed Gabby, a teenager who believed she was turning into a werewolf in the wake of her boyfriend's death, which some people also blamed her for. And over the first four issues, Tommaso proved he wasn't kidding about it being surreal, with multiple a tendency for the story and its characters to jump around in time in space, a Man-Bat-esque vampire that appears to be capable of reattaching severed limbs, and the summoning of a demon that displayed some prominent genitalia (read: he had a dick).
While reading, I personally had some difficulty determining what all the disparate elements had to do with one another and what it all meant. On the one hand, I think this was a good thing, keeping me reading issue to issue and waiting for the revelation that would tie it all together. However, it was also a bad thing, in that not everything did actually get tied together. There's nothing inherently wrong with leaving some stuff up in the air, but in the case of She Wolf, I feel like Tommaso's execution ended up making the story a difficult one to follow, as it wasn't clear which elements actually pertained to the direction the story was moving in. To be honest, I had no intentions of continuing She Wolf after finishing issue #4. And then, I became a reviewer for Comic Bastards.
She Wolf #5 picks up an undisclosed amount of time after the conclusion of the previous arc. We quickly learn that Gabby has left home for college, and we now follow her younger sister Lizzie. And I have to say, I do like this approach. It seems obvious that the werewolf aspect of the story is meant to do more than make it a creature feature. I remember thinking that, for Gabby, it was perhaps also a manifestation of her coming to terms with her boyfriend's death (admittedly, it has been a while since I read the previous issues, so I can't quite recall if I maintained that interpretation throughout). So, it makes sense that consecutive arcs would follow other people dealing with their own issues.
We open this issue opens with Lizzie's sixteenth birthday party, where only one of her friends, Pam, has shown up. Upset but still wanting to have fun, Lizzie and Pam head down to the local creak to look for salamanders. Because, that's what teenagers do? Regardless, the pair continues to hang out, and Lizzie exhibits increasingly strange behavior. Everything moves at a bit slower of a pace, and it's more straightforward this time around. It even goes as far as us only really get a glimpse of the surreal with Lizzie. Although, it was kind of working for me. And then, part two started. Yeah, as it turns out, this issue is broken into two different parts, and the second is almost entirely divorced from the first. It follows a completely different cast of characters, doing completely different things, in a completely different setting and, I believe, time. The only familiar narrative element is that someone becomes a werewolf. But, she's also some sort of human-dog hybrid? I don't know. I'm pretty sure it's meant to be some sort of prequel, and maybe the intent was for it to function like a backup story. However, there's no reason to care, and it undercuts the intrigue being built with Lizzie. The fact that it takes up the entire last third of the book only adds insult to injury.
Tommaso's art is, once again, what got me to start reading She Wolf. And in that regard, it's still working pretty well. Even the solid color backgrounds, something I've been critical of with other books, feel like they work here. Although, there's a noticeable lack of any moody coloring, something he did do in previous issues (most notably the first). That's not really a complaint, but I do hope we move in that direction as the story ramps up.
Honestly, I'll probably still at least check out the next issue, if not review it. I'm somewhat curious to see where Tommaso takes the different direction and themes of Lizzie's story. That being said, it's hard for me to really recommend She Wolf #5. If you're someone who's been reading and enjoying it despite the generally lukewarm critical reception, or maybe if the art really grabs you, I guess pick it up. But if neither of those are the case, there's probably nothing here for you.
She Wolf #5
Writer/Artist: Rich Tommaso
Publisher: Image Comics