"Alabaster: The Good, The Bad, and The Bird" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Illustrated by Daniel Warren Johnson
Colored by Carlos Badilla
2016, 128 Pages
Graphic novel released on August 31st, 2016
Dancy Flammairon has been through Hell. Wait. Scratch that. She's in Hell. Literally. After meeting her untimely end, she wanders through an endless void, haunted by the four-faced angel that once guided her mission to kill monsters while among the living. Of course, just because she's dead doesn't mean that she can't continue her life's work. Dancy is pulled back to this mortal coil to take on a very dysfunctional set of twins hellbent on murder.
Even in death, Dancy is a tortured soul. You'd think with the amount of hellish creatures she's put in the ground, she'd be afforded some form of peace in the afterlife. Instead, she's constantly at odds with her surroundings, struggling to figure out what's real in this seemingly endless sea of nothing. It's not fire and brimstone, but you can see how it's worthy of the name “Hell.”
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Carlos Badilla's colors make these scenes in Dancy's Hell really stand out. She's depicted as a celestial being of sorts, clad in darkness with what looks like stars covering her body, like she's made of outer space. If you remember the Marvel Comics character, Eternity, it's a bit like that. This is a great contrast against the stark white background. It really drives home how alone she is in this space.
Dancy finds herself in unfamiliar territory when she returns to the land of the living. She has something more to live for than just killing monsters, as she's reunited with her friend and would-be lover Maisie. There is this beautiful moment amidst all this bloodshed and chaos when the two finally see each other again. It's this peak of happiness before the rollercoaster ride plummets down into the abyss.
With something else to fight for, Dancy is re-invigorated. There's a newfound harshness as she takes the fight to the demented twins who dared to put their hands on her Maisie. It's almost like an all-female version of Taken, with Dancy in Liam Neeson's role. You almost feel sorry for these two.
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I've talked a lot about monster killing, but not a whole lot about the actual beasts. Sure, one could argue that man is the real monster. That's not the case here. There are full-on werewolf creatures here, brilliantly illustrated by Daniel Warren Johnson. They're unlike any other lycanthrope I've seen before and I'm not entirely certain they're even werewolves to begin with. First off, they're mostly hairless, like a big skinless dog. Their teeth are large, bulging out of their enlarged mouths, but not crazy sharp. This all might sound a little goofy, but I assure you that these are not creatures you'd want to run into on a dark, stormy night.
Johnson has a talent for drawing action, as seen in his previous work on The Ghost Fleet. He certainly gets a chance to do that here, however he also captures the raw emotion of the more somber scenes. There are so many subtle facial expressions that can speak volumes.
Alabaster: The Good, The Bad, and The Bird is as much about the supernatural horrors of the American South as it is about the trials and tribulations of a young albino girl. It just so happens that that girl can be scarier than any of the monsters lurking in the shadows. The book also has one of the most satisfying and simultaneously heartbreaking endings I've seen in recent years, pulling the rug from under you when you least expect it.