"Riven" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnell
Illustrated by Robert Tinnell
2012, 188 Pages
Trade Paperback released on August 29th, 2012
Puberty is bad enough as it is, but what if you might be a werewolf too? Such is the life of young Katy, a Romanian girl brought to the US after she was adopted by a nice American couple in Riven. On the evening before she left, something horrible happened and all the other children in the orphanage were killed. Katy has blocked most of this out. She knows she's adopted and she's OK with it. Her world gets complicated when she gets her first period and starts to see flashes of strange things such as murders and terrifying beasts.
At the heart of Riven is a girl that is just trying to find out who she is. Katy ends up in a coma for a few years after falling off a bridge. She wakes up fine, which is a medical marvel, but the world around her has changed. The people she knew are different and suddenly she's practically an adult. She didn't get to live those high school years or have her first kiss or go to the prom. She missed out on a chunk of her life and while she's struggling to come to terms with it, she has to deal with this werewolf thing. This makes her instantly relatable because you can't help but feel sorry for.
Click images to enlarge.
Authors Bo Hampton and Robert Tinnell went about revealing pieces of the story very carefully. Katy's connection to these gruesome murders and the werewolf she's seeing in her visions are unclear at first. Riven is tough to predict, but every question that is raised is answered as the comic goes on. This makes it a much more enjoyable read because I didn't know what to expect. There are little tidbits that are spread throughout the beginning that become much more meaningful when you go back after finishing the book.
Tinnell also illustrated Riven and brought a great style to it. The panels look like they were made with water colors, which is a difficult medium to master as there's no erasing mistakes. This gives the backgrounds a nice artistic feel while the characters look a bit more natural. The setting looks a little dated, like the book takes place in the '90s. That may be the case, but it doesn't hurt the comic at all.
The big plus with Tinnell's artwork is how he designed the werewolf. It's clear that this creature is more wolf than man, running on all fours and only sometimes standing on two. The eyes glow a crimson red to match the blood on the muzzle. It's a very creepy depiction. Just imagine waking up to find those red eyes glaring at you. Similarly, Katy's look and evolution are handled well. She started out rather unformed, like a lump of clay. Then when she wakes from her coma and starts to find out who she is, she becomes more defined. When the visions start, her eyes get a similar glow.
Click images to enlarge.
Riven isn't necessarily a comic I'd give to a young girl who is just coming of age, but it is an interesting take on the werewolf mythos. Although it's a book that centers on lycanthropy, the real focus is on Katy and who she is. Yes, there are scenes where a werewolf tears through people and it's bloody and gorgeous, but that's not the reason to read Riven. Although I'm definitely not a teenage girl, I was able to sympathize with Katy and root for her as she sought the closure she desperately needed.