The Werewolf of New York: A Supernatural Law Book
I was surprised to see a new Supernatural Law collection. Frankly, the Batton Lash series had fallen off my radar when it went digital. Batton Lash put out a book, The Monsters Meet on Court Street, last year, but that was a reprint of issues from 2003 and 2004.
The Werewolf of New York, in contrast, is a full-length color story new to print readers (although it was previously published in webcomic form). The storytelling, though, is the same as always — old-fashioned, determined pacing, somewhat stodgy, with groaner jokes and an overuse of exposition. Lash hasn’t totally dropped serialization, either. While the main plot, about a guy who becomes a werewolf, is complete in this book, a subplot about an old friend of Alanna Wolff’s isn’t resolved. We’re left wondering who he is and what he wants.
Leon Reed is the title character, a client who starts the story by wanting to enter rehab for his lycanthropy as part of a plea bargain. However, an activist group, People for the Rights, Interests, and Concerns of Shapeshifters, gets involved by trying to have Leon accept his nature. They think werewolfism is something to be cherished instead of a monstrous state to be avoided.
That the group can be, and frequently is, referred to as PRICS is indicative of the Borscht Belt-style humor of the book. In terms of plot, I found the storytelling alternately muddled and slow enough to be boring. Then I stopped to think about what the story might be saying. Is there an analogy to be made to groups that attempt to “convert” homosexuals? I hope not, since no matter which way I spin it, that comparison doesn’t come out well. Perhaps I’m just imagining things.
Mostly, characters talk and argue a lot, without much visually exciting art. The coloring is used well, although sometimes the shading seems overdone for the caricature-style cast members. When I read the series in issue form, I liked seeing Wolff and Byrd’s other clients, but they only have two other cases here. One features a generically busty vamp trying to find a place for her senile father, who looks like Nosferatu. The other, undeveloped one was a group of “monstas” that said things like “my peeps can chill” and “we was chillin’ big on the endz”. This struck me as having some of the same problems Jar Jar’s dialect did.
Long-time fans will want to know that this book exists, but I suspect many of them already pledged the Kickstarter for a copy. I don’t know that I’d call myself one any more — I’m harder to please with so much more reading competition out there now, including series with twists on monster stories that I find fresher. Lash is to be congratulated on making it this far, though, and finding new ways to keep putting out his series. He provides an introduction that sums up the series’ history to date, and it reads like a capsule history of the comic industry, from comic strip to self-published indy comic book to trade paperback. As he gets used to writing for the trade, perhaps his stories will develop more depth and nuance suitable for the longer form.
You can find out more about all things Supernatural Law at the publisher’s website. (The publisher provided a review copy.)