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The Wolf Gift Graphic Novel Review

6 min read
The Wolf Gift
The Wolf Gift

Beast of the bedroom or of boredom?

Creative Staff
Story: Anne Rice
Art/Adaptation: Ashley Marie Witter

What They Say
When reporter Reuben Golding arrives at a secluded mansion at the request of the home’s mysterious female owner, he doesn’t expect this assignment will lead to him being inexplicably attacked-bitten-by a beast shadowed in darkness. This single event prompts a terrifying but seductive transformation that both opens Reuben’s eyes to what was previously unseen and unknown, and leads to even more questions. Why was he given this wolf gift? Is its nature good or evil? And is he now all alone in this mysterious new world?

The Technical:
Returning to the worlds of author Anne Rice, Yen Press brings back artist Ashley Marie Witter to adapt this slightly more modern work to the form of a graphic novel.  Witter’s artwork is fantastically detailed and well framed.  She has a knack for drawing the human form and had the tricky job of creating a werewolf unlike any I’ve seen, straddling the line between human and beast eerily well.  I’m happy she keeps getting more work from Yen because her art is a pleasure to look at.

Sticking to the format they used for Interview with a Vampire: Claudia’s Story the book is a hardcover with a slip jacket.  The jacket cover itself is a bit on the sultry side, and sadly the lead doesn’t ever look quite that sexy on the internal pages.  The pages are black and white, on low gloss paper which makes for a nice presentation.  I caught a few typos on my read through which are unfortunate but don’t detract from the experience.  It’s a nice looking book all around and matches the other higher quality graphic novels Yen Press has been putting out.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
It’s not unsurprising that when Anne Rice returned to fiction writing she switched from vampires to werewolves.  It seems that they go together like peanut butter and jelly for most.  Yen Press returned to artist Ashley Marie Witter to adapt Anne Rice’s The Wolf Gift novel into a graphic novel.  The results are… interesting to say the least.

The lead in the story is a fresh out of college reporter named Reuben.  He’s approached by a woman to write about her uncle’s estate, a mansion of abandoned archeological artifacts nestled in the woods in California.  Once there Reuben decides the best course of action is to cheat on his girl friend with the older woman before waking up to a double and almost triple murder in which he is attacked by a werewolf.

What follows is the journey of a man as he becomes a beast, and his struggle of where to draw the line between his actions and the results they’re having on the community and his personal life.  There’s the backstory of where his powers came from and how they tie into the original owner of the mansion, of course.  There’s some eroticism tossed in for good measure as Rueben seduces his way into the heart of some random woman he meets while transformed.  Yes, there is some sex here to spice things up.  (Seriously, what is wrong with that girl?  Cult of personality snag her or was she just into furries to begin with?)

The problem is Rueben isn’t particularly interesting or sympathetic.  I kept expecting everything to take the expected tragic downward spiral into a dramatic and savage end.  The story goes the noble beast route instead.  Rueben cheating on the girlfriend doesn’t even end up being a thing in the end, no one seems to hold him responsible for his vigilante activities, and he’s not even consciously carrying the hunt out writing it off as instinct.  The lead almost seems to be a leaf caught is a breeze, his acted upon and not the one in command of anything.

Somewhere there’s probably a long write up by another reviewer delving in to Anne Rice’s struggles with faith and how it pertains to the actual novel this is adapted from.  There’s certainly a lot of her personal relationship with Catholicism coming out in this story, what with the lead’s struggles and the divide between faith and morality going on in his head and with all of the dead criminals he’s left in his wake.  It’s when science starts coming into the picture that this all starts going sideways.  Rice feels the need to attempt to explain the transformation with pseudoscience and it never quite gels.  She should have left it all more ambiguous if she was going to hew on the more supernatural side of things.

When it comes down to it the story tries to tackle more than it should.  It feels like it’s chasing after tangents and never really catches a single one.  The classical horror set up with the mystery mansion and artifacts is eventually forgotten in the CSI like chase for a busload of missing children and the broken relationship which is barely addressed.  By the time they return to the original mystery there’s little time to resolve it properly or in a realistic manner.  (How exactly is all the decapitation at the end swept under the rug?  More importantly, how does someone with a starting salary of twenty grand afford the taxes on an estate?)

The ending comes with not so much a feeling of closure, but with an odd sense that perhaps no lessons were learned.  Everyone seems to be full of forgiveness and the lead seems grateful like he’s finally figured out his place.  He was only a twenty-three year old man!  Nobody knows what they’re doing at that age.  It’s an ending that felt strangely out of place for the set up.

Perhaps my largest complaint about the story though is the dialog.  Who talks like these characters?  Everyone seems overly proper, overly constructed.  There isn’t a single stumble in anyone’s speech, no slang, no natural rhythm or cadence.  Especially the younger characters, their words just seem out of place, as if they were performing a greek drama.  There are translations which read far more natural than this dialog.

At least the whole thing is pretty to look at, although the modern setting and clothes makes it substantially less interesting than the last adaptation.

In Summary:
In Rice’s attempt to write a modern day werewolf thriller, she gets sidetracked into a world of crime drama and an overwrought backstory about the divide between modern humans and side branches which muddles the tale of a morality play at it’s heart.  There’s so much going on here that at least the story is constantly moving, but it never seems to get to it’s destination.  Reuben is a pretty but not exactly exciting lead.  The action is solid but there mostly for shock value and the eventual wrap up is an exposition dump that acts as both a way out for Reuben and an excuse to hand wave all the violence away.  Witter’s art elevates the book a level above it’s source material, but the reader’s enjoyment will come down to how much they enjoy modern day Anne Rice and her writing.

Content Grade: B –
Art Grade: A –
Packaging Grade: A

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: November 18th, 2014
MSRP: $20.00

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