Werewolves get a bum deal. It’s a cool concept for a monster, and can be visually stunning. But while vampires and zombies thrive, the poor werewolf seems to hobble along at a distant third, all too often reduced these days to playing a scantily-clad supporting role in vampire stories. And even when you look at the classic werewolf stories, it seems that most of them are about an essentially decent Everyman protagonist afflicted with the curse of being a werewolf, meaning that sympathise with their plight instead of hiding behind the sofa from the scary monster.
I myself have long toyed with the idea of exploring the potential of making werewolves frightening again. A couple of years back I even created a werewolf villain for Tyler James’ 30 Characters Challenge (you’ll be relieved to know I have no ambitions of becoming an artist):
But while I never developed my idea further, Fabian Rangel Jr. seems to be a man after my own heart, and with Extinct has given us a story about honest-to-goodness evil werewolves preying on the innocent. Interestingly, the set-up of this first issue reminds me quite a bit of Morning Glories. Like the breakout Image hit of 2010, Extinct is set in a high school apparently concealing dark secrets, staffed by a shady faculty of murderous teachers. And like Morning Glories, this comic introduces us to a world with what appears to be a dense, intricate mythology, that we only get the briefest tantalising glimpse of in this opening chapter.
Of course, Morning Glories didn’t have giant-ass werewolves!
These werewolves are stunningly brought to life by artist Jethro Morales, hulking in stature, with just the right combination of animal ferocity and human malice. The opening splash and a surprising transformation scene are particular highlights. But even when the focus is on the human characters, as is the case with most of the issue, Morales brings an energy and expressiveness to the story that is reminiscent of Manga in its heightened drama. The book is always nice to look at, with Morales aided by the vibrant colors of Juanmar Studios.
Though being pretty to look at would be insufficient without a good story behind the pictures, and Rangel seems to be delivering on that front. I say “seems”, because this issue is almost entirely set-up, with a lot of mysterious threads dangled in front of us, with us hopefully learning how they all connect in subsequent issues. There is not all that much plot on display here, but what we do get is plenty of characterisation. On this front, Rangel operates heavily within the realms of cliche: the high-school loser who longs for the pretty girl dating the jerk jock, etc etc. But this is probably a well-worn cliche because it remains an effective narrative device, as evidenced by how quickly we find ourselves rooting for Jimmy Reynolds.
The jury’s still out on how successful this story will turn out to be. But it’s got a killer concept – a high school run by evil werewolves! – and strong enough art and writing to at the very least bring me back for the next issue to see how things develop. Well worth a look!