What’s the old saying again — “cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!” or something? Yeah, I think that’s it — except in this case we can substitute dogs with their nearest evolutionary relative, wolves, and be a small step closer in the accuracy department.
Or will we? I mean, sure, the promotional blurb for writer Simon Spurrier and artist Ryan Kelly’s new Image Comics series, Cry Havoc, definitely states that “It’s not about a lesbian werewolf going to war — except it is,” so perhaps “definitely” is a piss-poor choice of words on my part given that, ya know, there’s (supposedly, at any rate) very little going on here that one can state is “definite” in nature.
All of which is kinda funny because I found Cry Havoc #1 to be a fairly straight-forward read. Not that I’m complaining, mind you, because it was an engrossing and fun one, as well, but the conceit of splitting the story of busker-turned-lycanthrope Lou Canton up into three distinct times and places — London, Agfhanistan, and the mysterious “Red Place” — and then employing three different colorists (Matt Wilson, Lee Loughridge, and Nick Fialrdi) to handle the hues on each in order to give them a more distinctive individual look is frankly old hat to anyone who’s read, say, Bodies, where different artists altogether were utilized for the same purpose, or even to anyone who’s seen a Tarantino flick, where jumping back and forth along any given character’s timeline is a matter of course.
All of which leads me to believe that CryHavoc desperately wants to be more “far out” than it is — which is pointless, really, because it stands pretty darn well on its own, no gimmicks required.
I’ve long been of the opinion that Spurrier is on the verge of the ever-elusive “something big” in his writing career : certainly he’s done the best one can possibly hope to following-up Alan Moore on Crossed + One Hundred and his soon-to-be-completed eight-part series The Spire is a fascinating exercise in world-building (also featuring, it should be noted, a lesbian protagonist) that perhaps sees his fine script overshadowed by the truly spellbinding art of Jeff Stokeley, but let’s be brutally honest here — when you’re stuck playing second-fiddle to either the person who came before you or to your monumentally-talented collaborator, it almost doesn’t matter how good the work you’re doing yourself is, because you’re still stuck in the “bridesmaid” role.
Could this, then, finally be Spurrier’s chance to step to the forefront as the cliched “emerging talent” with a “distinctive voice” that he actually is? Time will tell, but so far all the signs look good : the characterization here is strong, the Abu Ghraib-esque subplot is still reasonably topical, his writing evokes a strong “sense of place” in each of the locales employed, and his only-semi-convoluted story structure serves its purpose of mystifying what’s actually a pretty simple plot that can be reduced, basically, to girl gets bitten by werewolf, then conscripted against her wishes into a mercenary force of other “differently-abled” folks, and finally finds herself (spoiler alert!) captured by the same person she’s been tasked with tracking down — and with whom she appears to share a rather unique bond. That’s certainly plenty to pack a debut installment with, and the breakneck-if-disjointed-by-design pace of Cry Havoc #1 doesn’t really slow down to give you much time to think — which is just fine in my book, especially given the fact that the backmatter at the end more than ably demonstrates that Spurrier has indeed done his homework here, most notably as it relates to werewolf legend, and that there’s more going on beneath the surface, as promised, than one would initially suspect given the rapid-fire rate at which events are occurring.
So, yeah — all good in that department, then, and all good as far as the art goes, as well. Kelly’s always been an under-valued talent on the various projects he’s been involved with, but now that he’s got plenty to (sorry in advance) sink his teeth into, I expect him to continue the trend established here of leaving readers saying “wow, I never knew the guy was this good” in subsequent issues. The “multiple colorists” trope works really well, too, it must be said, flavoring each time/place with a little different metaphorical “spice” while not upsetting the “main course”(do I need to eat dinner or what?) to any noticeable degree. Wrap it all up under either Kelly’s main cover or Cameron Stewart’s uniquely-designed variant, and the end result is a comic that looks as good as it reads.
So, what the heck? Count me in for the foreseeable future, barring a drastic and unexpected drop in quality. I’m a little bummed that Image is joining Marvel and DC in sneaking more of their books up to $3.99 (and I paid for this one myself, no digital freebie here), but I guess it was probably inevitable, and I certainly feel like I got every penny’s worth in this case, since subsequent re-reads have revealed more than I caught the first time through. Maybe this will prove to be the Simon Spurrier-penned masterpiece he’s been hinting that he’s capable of?
Story: Simon Spurrier Art: Ryan Kelly
Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8 Recommendation: Buy