Current Reviews


Awakenings #3 & #4

Posted: Friday, April 8, 2005
By: Michael Deeley

Writer: Eric Hobbs
Artists: Gabe Pena (p), Jeremy Colwell (with Lebeau Underwood, and Derek Fridolfs assisted on #3) (i)

Publisher: 8th Day entertainment
Price: $2.99 USD each

The story of Spencer Straight takes darker turns. At some point in the 21st Century, Det. Straight is arrested for the brutal murder of his young son. He tries to explain the days leading up to the murder to his court-appointed psychiatrist. He talks about Ray O’Connell, an escaped murderer he tracked down years ago. O’Connell bit him during a fight and fled. Years later, Straight’s trying to put his marriage back together after cheating on his wife. He’s also begun waking up in strange places with no memory of the previous night. In issue #2, he finds a woman brutally murdered. One of her hands is missing. Straight thinks O’Connell is responsible, since he’s seen Ray blow up a nightclub. Then Straight finds the woman’s hand in his garage.

In issue #3, Straight tells his partner about the hand. He thinks it means O’Connell has snuck into his house. Straight’s partner keeps it quiet while he looks for O’Connell. Meanwhile, a group of dangerous men are also looking for O’Connell and Straight. They consider both to be dangerous. The police agree: Evidence is found on the woman’s body incriminating Straight. Before they pick him up, he’s taken by O’Connell.

It’s in issue #4 that we learn what’s going on. As I suspected from the start, this is a werewolf story. But it’s one with a very unique, yet natural, twist. It’s often called the “curse of the werewolf.” The victim is bitten by another werewolf and is compelled to hurt those he loves. We feel sorry for him because he is a monster against his will. His death is a release from the nightmare that is his life. Lycanthopy is a disease. It can also be an addiction. Some embrace their bestial nature and enjoy the killings. In the movies, such people are usually hunted down and killed by our heroes and victim.

But what if the victim found others like him? Other people who hate what they’ve become and what they’re forced to do? In Awakenings, such people come together to control their bestial natures. They also work to destroy those who surrendered to the wolf. O’Connell is a part of the former group. The menacing Darius Night leads the latter. And Spencer Straight is caught between them.

Speaking as someone who isn’t a big fan of horror comics, I have found this to be a very tense, intelligent story. It’s been moving at just the right pace to keep you interested, but not too fast to ruin the mood. The mystery of what Spencer Straight really did is slowly revealed through character-based action and dialogue.

The art is still fabulous. Pena and Colwell have a style that blends Adam Hughes with Kevin Maguire, as inked by Joe Rubenstein. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: These guys are pros. They should be working for the big boys.

I do have two complaints, both in issue #4. It begins with a scene of Mrs. Straight, followed by a scene of another woman. But the two women look so similar, I thought they were both Mrs. Straight. A little more differentiation in faces would have helped. Later, Spencer talks to a woman who’s working on her bike. One panel has her on the bike. In the next, she’s kneeling beside it. It looks as though she just shrunk! She’s tiny! An earlier panel that shows her from a distance also creates the impression she’s shortened. I know perspective and size can be tough to draw in a comic, but this should have been caught before publication.

Still, the end result is the same: A great story about one man discovering his hidden nature. A new take on a traditional monster story. And some top-line art. Well worth tracking down.

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