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Review: Cry Havoc #1

CryHavocCoverCry Havoc #1 is yet another innovative creator owned masterpiece in the making from Image Comics. Writer Si Spurrier, artist Ryan Kelly, and three distinct colorists Lee Loughridge, Nick Filardi, and Matthew Wilson team up to tell an intense and occasionally frightening story about Louise “Lou Canton” London, who is a lesbian busker (street musician) and gets bitten by a werewolf in a dark alley. Somehow, she ends up joining other people with special abilities as part of a consortium of independent military contractors to take out a civilian, who killed CIA operatives at an “enhanced interrogation” facility in Afghanistan. Spurrier, Kelly, and colorists Loughridge, Filardi, and Wilson combine the real life horrors of the War of Terror along with a new twist on the werewolf story. There definitely aren’t any new moons involved.

Spurrier takes a non-linear approach to plot in Cry Havoc #1 starting literally with “the end” as Kelly and Loughridge show a woman behind bars completely consumed by the monster within with elongated limbs and lots of shadow space. The dialogue from an unnamed speaker establishes Lou as a wildcard in the series with her lack of control over her abilities. This opening page also establishes a type of visual coding for Cry Havoc. Loughridge colors the scenes set in prison called “The Red Place”, which has red in the gutters, Filardi colors the scenes from Lou’s past in London with her zookeeper girlfriend with blue in the gutters, and Wilson colors the scenes in Afghanistan with green between the colors. This ensures a smooth transition between storylines and matches a situation to a color like when Lou uses her werewolf senses to track down Lynn Odell, the civilian who killed the CIA personnel, and is also a monster of some type.

Each colorist also captures the overall feel of the various settings. Loughridge does stark mystery and terror with his use of shadows and hints of red. These pages are set in the future, and the identity of the people keeping Lou locked up are just barely revealed and definitely not expanded upon because they are the main antagonists of the series. Filardi’s pages range from soft and romantic with Lou’s blue hair shining the light of the London sky as she kisses her girlfriend on her lunch break to shocking as the blue mixes with shadows when Lou gets bit. Kelly’s pencil work gets a little more fragmented when the attack happens as the pretty people and buildings jumbles into blood, horror, and jagged panels. In keeping with the desert setting of Afghanistan, Wilson’s color palette is mostly muted browns and greens (for military uniform) except when one of the contractors uses their abilities, like Tengu, who spots the American black site with a blue eagle or the yellow glow of the unit’s mysterious, taciturn commander, Adze. All three colorists unleash a bolt of blue, yellow, or red when something supernatural happens to show how jarring it is to the slice of life story in the past or the war comic in the present.

But Cry Havoc #1 isn’t just well-crafted visual storytelling and visceral shocks from artist Ryan Kelly. Writer SiCryHavocInterior Spurrier fully develops his lead character, Lou, using the non-linear structure to strengthen her arc while adding intrigue with the first and last page. Like all good monster stories, the scariest monster is within Lou as she gives into her inner wolf while playing violin for a local band calls Squids of Forbearance. (Spurrier rivals Kieron Gillen in his turns of phrase sometimes.) Kelly and Filardi stain the page with blood and bold reds to go with the soft blue light of the club as Lou maybe likes her werewolf side, which she had vehemently denied earlier (But plotwise in the future.) on the helicopter in Afghanistan. She doesn’t want to kill goats much less insurgents or Lynn and is a little scared by a “shoot first” monologue delivered in a Southern drawl from combat veteran Stig. There is a battle between Lou London, who even shudders at hyenas at the zoo and loves music and beautiful things and women, and the werewolf, who is pure primal urge and literally twists Lou’s body on the first page.

Writer Si Spurrier takes the ugliest spectre of the probably neverending War on Terror, including torture and black sites, and combines them with the ancient, persistent myth of the werewolf through a personal story about a woman, who must fight against the worst of human nature and probably ends up losing. Cry Havoc #1 has a protagonist, but not a hero just a victim. This, along with the shadows and grit of Ryan Kelly’s art and the ability of  of colorists Lee Loughridge, Nick Filardi, and Matthew Wilson to go from neutral and restrained to chaotic and terrifying at the drop of the hat, is what makes it such a dark story. And it’s a tough read because Spurrier’s dialogue for Lou and her girlfriend is incredibly natural with sarcastic wit, rude humor, and normal activities like going to a kebab shop and kissing substituting for overwrought melodrama.

Cry Havoc #1 is the full package with a three dimensional protagonist, revisionist take on the well-worn werewolf horror genre with a dash of real world metaphor, and innovative use of colors as Lee Loughridge, Nick Filardi, and Matthew Wilson show that they are masters of that aspect of comics.

Story: Si Spurrier Art: Ryan Kelly Colors: Nick Filardi, Lee Loughridge, Matthew Wilson
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.8 Verdict: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review.