"Snarl" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Alterna Comics
Written by Kelly Bender
Illustrated by Nathan Kelley
2015, 43 Pages, $2.99
Comic released on May 13th, 2015
Something has been leaving mauled bodies out in the woods in a Washington state park. It's pretty gruesome and the police have no leads, but all signs point to the unlikely culprit of a werewolf. There are noticeable claw marks on the victims and large paw prints around the crime scene...but that's crazy...right?
This uncertainty is what fuels the mystery within Snarl, as detectives Bevil and Sagun work to crack this case. They've already done everything by the book and have come up empty. Meanwhile, the body count continues to rise. With pressure from their bosses mounting, the pair start to look into the supernatural possibilities. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, maybe it's a duck. Bevil and Sagun are the only people in the area that are even entertaining the idea that it's a werewolf. Admittedly, it's a bit farfetched in a “normal” world, but these two are grasping at straws by this point. They don't have a single clue as to who the murderer could be.
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After eight bodies have turned up, Bevil finally does something that resembles detective work and goes to a library. Meanwhile, his partner interviews a guy in a coma. It's no wonder that the case isn't solved yet with these two crack detectives hard at work. Eventually the two get lucky and meet someone who can literally take them right to where the killer is living, essentially doing their jobs for them.
Snarl jumps around a bit, as if it's not sure what kind of story it wants to be. At times it's a straight up police procedural, then it's a horror tale or a mystery or a kind of buddy cop drama. It picks and chooses various stereotypes from each of these genre, such as the asshole police chief or sex-crazed teenaged cannon fodder.
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Nathan Kelley's artwork on Snarl reminds me a bit of Eduardo Risso's on 100 Bullets, but mixed with Sergio Calvet from Halloween Man. It basically mixes that serious, noir style with a slight cartoonish quality. Shadow is used very effectively, often with someone completely in darkness with nothing but their eyes or blood splatter showing through. This effect really makes the blood pop throughout the book.
Snarl has a good story somewhere within it. It gets bogged down with a mismatch of genres and a forced twist / reveal that doesn't pack much of a punch. Bevil and Sagun basically stumble through the case with everything conveniently falling into place for them and explained by some exposition-friendly side characters. At one point they meet a guy who is literally carrying a copy of a surveillance tape showing the killer at work. If some of the fat was trimmed from this 40+ page comic, it would be a pretty lean cop story with a nice horror angle.