‘Wynonna Earp: Strange Inheritance’ – Graphic Novel Review

For those interested in weird westerns, there is a new gal in town with the law in her blood: Wynonna Earp. IDW has just released Wynonna Earp: Strange Inheritance that collects Wynonna Earp #1 – 5 (Image Comics), Wynonna Earp: Home on the Strange #1 – 3 (IDW), “Blood is the Harvest” in IDW's Tales of Terror, and Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars #1 – 4 (IDW) into one larger graphic novel edition of over 300 pages. Beau Smith wrote/created the six tales, and each featured an accompanying creative team of artists, inker, letterer, etc. The visuals do change from one story to the next, but the writing remains consistent throughout.

“Prologue”

The graphic novel opens with “Prologue” and introduces readers to Wynonna Earp's world five years prior, in which she fights weird paranormal people. The story also provides an overarching plot thread in which a gang of bad guys – guys that Wyatt Earp fought when he was a law man – known as “Cowboys” have been killing off Wyatt Earp’s relations in order to sustain their immortality. The introduction also sets the point of time that Wynonna is offered a badge with the US Marshall’s Black Badge Division, fighting paranormal enemies. Smith provides a straightforward entry point for readers who are new to Wynonna Earp

Luis Diaz keeps his art style simple, so readers can focus on the facts of the story and the important visual cues. Diaz's color selection tends towards muted greens, oranges, and reds which contrast with the pinks, purples, and blues and as a result, are interesting color choices. The layout is reminiscent of a photo scrapbook, complementing the passage of time for this story with the rest of the stories in the book. The lettering by Robbie Robbins is clean, easy to read, and given Diaz’s colors, the white speech balloons pop off the page.

“Rednecks, White Corpuscles, and Blue Ribbon Beer”

As in the first tale, Wynonna takes command and quickly defuses the situation, because she knows how the perpetrator operates. She hops from one bad, supernatural situation to another without breaking a nail. She's a smart and no-nonsense law enforcer, but that doesn't mean she will necessarily follow the law to the letter. She usually has help, which is refreshing, instead of the “lone wolf” type of officer. Smith threads bits of humor throughout all of the stories. For example, the captions that narrate the Marshall manual to Wynonna's ability to improvise and gain control of the local bar solicited many chuckles. Later, it is revealed that the villain, Bobo, loves The Andy Griffith Show – how absurd!

Artist Joyce Chin, along with Mark Irwin on inks, endows Wynonna with flowing blonde locks, creating a glamour version that happens to be highly sexualized. Wearing low riding leather pants, her small corset barely contains her breasts as she strolls into danger. Feather collar, cowboy boots, pouty lips, and her Marshall's badge dangling from her neck, this is definitely a different take from the Wynonna readers were introduced to in the first story.

Chin’s illustrations for this tale are full of detail. Blood features prominently, which lends to a flowing sense of motion throughout the tale. The folds and creases of clothing, shading, and wisps and swirls of the clouds complement the action of the story. The panel and page layouts are mixed, and the compositions are unique and dynamic, such as when her flowing hair outlines the framing of the layout.

Nathan Lumm’s colors are vibrant and create a surreal environment. The blues are beautiful, especially Wynonna's horse for instance. And, the pinks, such as when the bounty hunters return to their normal size, pop off the page. Letterer Amie Grenier rounds out the visuals with clean fonts, caption boxes that stand out, and speech balloons that complement the panels and do not obscure the action and characters.

“The Refried Dead”

The creative team for this short story was the same as the prior story, except that Pat Lee completed the pencils. In this tale, Wynonna must solve a series of murders of the major crime bosses, featuring odd symbols as the common theme. The Egyptian motifs and particularly the mummy villain (Raduk) was conducive to Lee's art style. The elongated bodies and rather sly eyes for the most of the characters gave the impression that they all had some secrets to hide, or that they were just that cool. Irwin, Lumm, and Grenier provided visual consistency between this story and the one before it. 

“Home on the Strange”

This tale revisits the Cowboys from the “Prologue,” so in this story readers find out why the Cowboys are seeking to annihilate Wyatt Earp and his entire bloodline. The main trio of villains that ganged up and killed Wyatt Earp missed the relationship that produced Wynonna. Smith leads the story to a showdown between Wynonna and her team against the Cowboys at, you guessed it, the O.K. Corral in Tombstone. It's a fun update to the historic gunfight with a supernatural twist. Leading up to the climatic battle, Smith tickles the funny bone during Wynonna's gunfight with zombie postal workers as well as during her run in with “hillbilly gremlins.”

Artist Carlos Ferreira pulls back the hyper-sexualization and glamour a few notches and portrays the human characters more naturally, while still getting to be “over the top” with the paranormal characters. The fight sequences are laid out well across several pages with high energy. The zombies look disgusting, as they should, with maggots, holes, and rotting flesh. For the climatic fight, all sorts of creatures make an appearance and are promptly dispatched. The apparition of Wyatt Earp with his guns a-blazing evokes the moment that audiences would have clapped when a long-lost hero arrives to save the day. It's a powerful panel reveal and lends to the epic feel of the showdown.

Silvio Spotti, Marcelo T. Silveira, and Totem FX completed the inks, while Salvatore Aiala completed colors. Thick and thin lines are well balanced throughout the story, and Aiala's colors complement the Southern California/Southwest color schemes often associated with the region. The flashback of four panels are nicely set apart from the rest of the story with rich sepia tones. And Robbie Robbins' lettering is clean and well spaced in the captions and speech balloons. His placement of text considers the movement of the readers' eyes, so it's easy to follow. The zombie speech balloons – burgundy and yellow – are slick. The banter between “Meat” and “Nope” in one of the panels stands out as playful and paced well given the size of the speech balloons.

“Blood is the Harvest”

Manuel Vidal's art style is complemented by Adriano Honrato Lucas' fantastic color selections, especially in the opening sequence. The blue-green is gorgeous and an unusual choice for horror, but it works. The lines and shadows are pronounced and the bleed of colors rich and deep. The full-page layout of Wynonna and the trooper meeting the scarecrow by the light of the full moon in the background packs a visual punch. The exchange of questions with the scarecrow as to why he is haunting the field was humorous. And, the demise of the scarecrow is so simple and straightforward that it is reminiscent of Indiana Jones pulling out his gun to shoot the guy rather than engage in a sword fight. Robbins returned on lettering, and, as with the prior tale, the caption boxes and speech balloons are mindful of the reader's experience and seeing the story unfold. In particular, the colors of the caption boxes complement the panels they inhabit.

“The Yeti Wars”

Smith's last tale is the story of a doctor who manipulates DNA to create new forms of beasts for battle. Wynonna is joined by some of her friends and fellow US Marshall agents, and, together, they take down the doctor. This is probably one of the weaker tales in the book because this story concept has been written before. That said, it does work well enough for the Wynonna series.

Enrique Villagran's art style appears rather flat on the page. It may have to do with all of the thin lines for shading and a limited amount of thick lines to balance out – a general lack of detail that some of the other stories in this volume incorporate. Kris Carter's colors run the spectrum of subdued for the snow landscape of Alaska to the more vibrant colors needed during the raid on the animal lab sequence. Dave Sharpe rounds out the creative team on this story by completing the lettering. Like Carter, Sharpe employs a full range of speech balloon text (small for quieter voice to larger for yelling voice), sound effect words, and captions. His work blends well with the team, and, together, they convey the tension and high energy of the action-packed story.

This is a packed graphic novel of six stories. The balance between longer stories and short stories in between works exceedingly well. The stories that explore and resolve the Cowboys storyline were probably the most interesting, because they revealed more about Wynonna than some of the other tales. The variety of creative teams gave readers the opportunity to visually experience Wynonna from a myriad of perspectives, and, as a result, some art styles were better suited to the material than others. For readers who want an entry point to Wynonna Earp's weird west universe, this is a good start because of the number of stories contained in this volume. And, the price is reasonable for the 300+ page count. 

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