Two Misfits on The Road

New Review of Wulf and Batsy issue-1 from website

By Joe Hilliard

Today we look at the first issue of the Viper Comics mini-series Wulf & Batsy, written and illustrated by Bryan Baugh. Baugh begins the book with a bang. Several largely silent pages follow a werewolf and a young woman engaged in a confrontation across a rolling field. A mysterious woman in flowing black interrupts the altercation, knocks the young woman out and sends the werewolf away. This is our introduction to Batsy and Cevin, the wulf of the title.

The first issue shows Baugh has a good grasp on his storytelling. A lot of information is passed on, and a lot happens in a 24-hour time span in a 24-page issue. I give Baugh kudos for his pacing – nothing seems forced, the story starts strong, drops into a few pages of relative calm, and then ramps up to its cliffhanger ending. The first half, with its hints of Batsy and Cevin's past, their relationship, is neatly done, creating a familial feel, cozy, that opens them up to the reader's empathy. The second half then propels Cevin into the consequences of that opening confrontation, drawing a tight circle around our two protagonists. Baugh alternates between effective silence and judicious dialogue detailing not just their relationship, but also delineating the denizens of the strange town they find themselves in. It's not perfect, there seem a few missteps in the villagers section, but not enough to take away from an enjoyable first issue.

There are a lot of things to like about Baugh's art in this book. The opening page evokes an etching of a dark legend. His use of heavy dark lines and stark black blocking amp up the first part of the issue. The middle then goes to a more delicate, thin line with minimal white backgrounds. The latter section of the book is populated by grotesques that have wandered off the set off the pages of the collected EC Comic, from Tales of the Crypt (watch for the witch) to Mad Magazine.

Extra points to Baugh for the faux novelties advertisement that appears half way through the book. It's well-executed, very amusing, and manages to not disrupt the story around it. It's like reading an old House of Mystery and passing over the X-Ray specs ad. Individually, each section is beautifully rendered.

However, as an overall book, it felt like it could benefit from more continuity in style. Thinking of Gloomcookie, as an example, the mood varies from humor to horror to romance, while keeping its distinctive feel. Baugh is close, but wavers just a little. It is his excellent cross-hatching and shading that draws the whole picture closer together, spanning the bold to the delicate to the grotesque. More an issue of tone, than style. I really liked his pencils, and look forward to what he does in the second issue. Check out the first issue of this series. It's intriguing, its well thought-out, beautifully drawn, and I definitely want to know where Baugh takes Batsy and Cevin next.

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