Saturday, December 29, 2012

Curse of the Wendigo

Written by Mathieu Missoffe
Art by Charlie Adlard

There are three things that the French graphic novel Curse of the Wendigo, translated into English and published by Dynamite, has going for it that make it a winner so far as I'm concerned:  it's set during the First World War, it prominently features Native American mythology, and it's drawn by Charlie Adlard.  And, with all of these elements firmly in place, this was a book that I enjoyed a great deal.

This comic is set in 1917 in Flanders.  Both sides of the war have been bogged down in muddy trenches for some time, when both sides begin to suffer unexplainable losses - sentries disappear at night, and all that is found of them is blood.  Eventually, leaders on both sides decide to confer under a white flag, and they agree to send men from both armies to investigate.  A Cree man, Wohati, is somehow there with the French army, and he seems to have a good idea of what's going on, blaming things on a Wendigo, a cursed spirit that relies on cannibalism for nourishment.

This is a horror comic through and through, and as the French and German soldiers investigate, they discover some pretty grisly sights (the cover can give you some idea of what is coming).  I wish there was more space in the book to examine just how these soldiers were able to interact with one another after spending so much time trying to kill each other, but instead Missoffe keeps the plot moving, and adds in a sub-plot about a French soldier who is in a hospital recovering from some very serious wounds, including a number that look like small bites.

I'm always happy reading stories set during the Great War, and I believe that Missoffe does a good job of capturing the frustration and detachment of front-line, trench soldiers.  After the joint squad is assembled, one of the characters makes a crack about celebrating Christmas with the Germans next, which makes me wonder if many soldiers were aware of the series of truces that took place in 1914 on Christmas Eve.

Adlard further cements his reputation as one of comic's premier horror artists with this book.  Unlike his work on The Walking Dead, this comic is in colour, which is used effectively to add a sense of menace to scenes like the one where mustard gas wafts over our heroes.

I wish that more French comics were being translated into English, as I've long enjoyed their different sense of pacing and storytelling.  This book is a good argument for more French comics (although I'd be happy with just getting to the end of The Secret History).

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