Now, for you Ornithological enthusiasts, there are no cranes in this particular book. What there are is an abundance of gorgeously rendered paintings, so many that this one volume could be an art book in its own right, and one any collector would be proud to have on their shelves. Beautiful, black watercolor applied in fine lines, smears, and spatters on a barren, white landscape welcome us into the world of The Gifted.
This first installment asks more questions than it answers, but remains a very compelling story. Our protagonist is a wolf, trekking about a land where there seems to be a dearth of the things that wolves usually eat. Or drink. In fact, there seems to be very little in this world at all but dry, cracked earth and rocks.
There are fish carcasses scattered among immortal plastic refuse in a long dried-out lakebed. Even the pigs in this world are scrawny and malnourished.
How did things get this way? Hints are there that whisper as to what occurred: lightly over-layed images of war, industry and pollution hiding in the shadow of a dune. Early in the story we reach the ordered and ugly swath of a chainlink fence amidst the nearly pure landscape, surrounding some kind of industrial complex with ruinous fingers of smokestacks belching black gloom into the sky. It’s a chilling image.
There is very little dialogue to guide us, and when words are spoken, they are decidedly foreign yet somehow familiar. The authors do utilize sound effects, sometimes to propel the story, other times as atmosphere (add noise to the many pollutants this factory creates). Once or twice I found myself wishing there was less onomatopoeia just so I could better appreciate the picture beneath, but that is a minor gripe. Terrific use of light and shadow plus a dynamic P.O.V. keeps the experience from growing stagnant, despite the lack of color and language. One image in particular, two figures standing near the blinding gaze of headlights, silhouetted and menacing almost had me feeling threatened.
Not to give too much away, the wolf befalls some trouble and is changed because of it. The full reach of this transformation is not immediately known, but judging by the way that colors start to bleed into the artwork, you know something is up. It’s a clever little device, (and one reminiscent of the The Giver, for you 20th Century Lit. majors) that starts out subtly but becomes magnificent and glorious as the lead character reaches a new height. The sense of ascendancy is very real and very powerful, ending in a climactic howl of strength. You know the wolf’s journey is only beginning.
Writing (Wassel) and art direction (Gooden/Gore) dovetail nicely into a book that looks good and is paced well. My one complaint when I put it down was that I’d have to wait to find out what happens next. There is suspense, there is drama, there is action, and all with barely a word spoken. It takes a particular kind of mind to pull off that kind of trick, and the brains over at CME do it well. I look forward to seeing what they next have to offer.
Interested readers can find an excerpt from The Gifted here.