Skinwalker

An FBI agent, just promoted to the profiling unit, investigates the disappearance of his first partner after a panicked phone call. Ann Adakai, a Navajo Tribal Police officer struggling with the conflict between respected tradition and law enforcement methods, finds herself aiding him. Skinwalking is a term for Navajo witchcraft, but someone’s been taking it literally, with skinned corpses showing up across the country.

At first, Ann’s resistance to the agents, based on her conspiracy theories about them wanting to overrule her methods, seems exaggerated and oversensitive. It’s even more surprising when the reality turns out to be even more unbelievable than her fears.

Skinwalker cover
Skinwalker
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The characters are better than the story they’re in. Revelations come fast and suddenly, and I get the impression that if I looked too closely at all of the plot points, the whole thing would unravel. I’d love to see more stories with the investigators, though; their personalities and interaction are immediately appealing.

They’re worthy of the best odd-couple pairings common to this genre. The setup and story remind me of similar movies or TV shows with the premise “he’s X, she’s Y, together, they’re detectives.” The writers have clearly put a lot of thought into their backgrounds, and I got the impression there was much more to them than made it to the page.

The cultural background is unusual and also attractive to the reader. Although the officer is conflicted about her own feelings towards tradition, she defends her people’s practices and strength to the overbearing FBI outsiders. The usual turf battles between the local peace officers and the big-wigs from Washington are made worse by their differences in belief. The book also explains these elements clearly and without patronizing.

Dela Cruz’s digital tones fill every inch of the page with shade. The result is a dark book, with the only white space to rest the eye being found in the word balloons. The text is generically typeset, which allows for different fonts for the different narration of the two main characters, but the all-capital dialogue would have more charm and warmth if it had been hand-lettered. As it is, it’s harsh and cheap-looking, especially when the lettering runs into the edges of the balloons. Hurtt’s art, though, provides plenty of welcome attitude and emotion. It’s a shame it’s so heavily overlaid.

I have previously reviewed The Tomb, also written by DeFilippis and Weir. Brian Hurtt also drew Queen & Country: Declassified Book 1 and Hard Time: 50 to Life, while Arthur Dela Cruz wrote and illustrated Kissing Chaos.


4 Responses to “Skinwalker”

  1. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Book two, Operation: Morningstar, is pencilled by Brian Hurtt (Skinwalker) with inks by Bryan O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life) and Christine Norrie (Hopeless Savages). The style is gritty, well-suited to the dirty events portrayed and a bit rougher than Rolston’s. [...]

  2. Past Lies » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] diverse genres well — I’ve enjoyed their Maria’s Wedding (family soap opera); Skinwalker (horror mystery); and The Tomb (mystical adventure, illustrated by the same artist as here) — [...]

  3. Queen & Country: Declassified » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] Hurtt previously illustrated Skinwalker, and Greg Rucka previously wrote [...]

  4. John Says:

    What a creepy comic series; The Navajo believe that skinwalkers have the power to steal the “skin” or body of a person. That if you engage eyes with a skinwalker they can immerse themselves into your body. (http://www.quileutes.com/native-americanlegends/navajo-skinwalker.html) This sounds not too far off base from the comic.




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