REVIEW: Extinct #2

I don’t know about you, but I find that first issues of a comic series are rarely the best.  With all the world-building and setting the stage that needs to be done in that opening issue, it seems that usually it’s the subsequent issues where we start to get into the characters a bit more and the story truly finds its rhythm.  Such is the case for Extinct, the werewolf series from 215 Ink.  I reviewed the first issue last month, and though I was very positive in my opening impressions, I concluded with “the jury’s still out on how successful this story will be.”  Well, with Extinct #2, the jury have returned a decisive verdict, and we can see that this is clearly a comic worth following through to its conclusion.

Something that becomes clearer in this second issue is how funny the story is.  Fabian Rangel Jr’s smart scripting vividly brings to life our trio of teenage protagonists as they bicker amongst themselves and try to come to grips with the enormity of the surreal situation they have found yourselves in.  Funnily enough, the impression I got reading this issue was that Extinct does for werewolves what Fright Night did for vampires: tackling a classic monster through the perspective of young characters familiar with all the classic tropes, making the story work simultaneously as a humorous twist on the old cliches as well as an earnest homage to the genre.

It’s not just the kids that Rangel Jr effectively brings to life, however.  The primary antagonists – the nasty principal and his bullying jock son, both introduced in the previous issue, but here emerging as full-blown werewolf Big Bads – are further fleshed out, as they take turns “fleshing out” helpless victims in some blackly comic death scenes.  This vein of dark humor carries on through the subsequent conversation father and son have.  “Dad,” asks young Scott, having just turned into a werewolf and feasted on human intestines for the first time, “What’s happening?”  His father looks on in solemn silence for a beat, before answering with, “Scotty, I think it’s time we had a talk.”  It’s that awkward father/son puberty discussion, rendered absurd by the fact that it’s two gore-splattered werewolves having it.  Just replace a wet dream with gutting the school doctor.

There was a lot of mystery in the first issue, and there remain unanswered questions, but through the arrival of Jimmy’s father James and his werewolf-killing sidekick, as well as the monologuing of our aformentioned evil father/son combo, we start to see the werewolf mythology of this particular narrative take shape, and get a sense of what the larger plot will be moving forward.  But having said that, you still get the sense that there isn’t much story crammed into the issue.  With few pages having more than 3 or 4 panels, this is a very quick read, perhaps lacking in detail in some spots.

However, any sacrifice in depth is more than compensated for in the drama that Jethro Morales brings to the table with his art (assisted once more by the vibrant colors of Juanmar Studios).  The cartoonish yet expressive character designs really enhance the black comedy vibe I’m getting from the book, but when the moment calls for it, he can get menacing with the werewolves, making masterful use of shading and perspective to make these oh-so-familiar monsters feel enigmatic and menacing.  In this regard, I can’t really fault Rangel Jr with his “less is more” approach to plotting: the large canvas he gives Morales on each page to depict his dynamic visuals are a big part of what makes this such an immersive reading experience.  Like all the best writer/artist collaborations, Morales has put his creative stamp on Extinct just as much as Rangel Jr.

Let me also take a brief moment to salute both Rangel Jr and Morales for that last page spread.  Werewolf basketball players?  Surely an homage to the ’80s Michael J. Fox film Teen Wolf.  Genius!

215 Ink are putting out a wealth of quality material right now, but with issue #2, Extinct puts itself right up there with the very best.  Both writer Fabian Rangel Jr and artist Jethro Morales are both rising stars to watch in the comics world.

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