REVIEW: Rampant

(Source Point Press, 2014)

Written and Illustrated by Joshua Werner

This is a bit of a departure for me as I usually stay in the realm of the comic book when I’m reviewing something.  Joshua Werner is a comic writer and illustrator on top of a novelist, so I’m not straying too far from the self-made boundaries of my tiny comfort zone.

Werner has published several comics, including Jack of Spades, his own creation, and the amazing series, J. Werner presents Classic Pulp, in which vintage pulp comics are reprinted.  It’s a job that takes no small amount of time, with formatting issues and searching for copyright licenses, but in the end it’s a noble effort.  Mr. Werner is in many cases saving these comics from being lost, and for that he should be recognized.

Rampant is a werewolf tale set in the 18th century and weaving several popular characters of period fiction into one story.  Charles Clerval becomes entangled in the web of intrigue surrounding the powerful Wilson clan, foreigners who have barricaded themselves in a massive estate on the edge of Cologny, Switzerland.  Charles loses his father and tries to make a name for himself and a life for the woman he wants to marry.  He gains employment with the Wilson’s, and soon learns that their strange ways and unsociable nature.

Despite the fictional nature of the story there is a historical basis for the core idea, and Werner takes a moment and a couple of pages at the end of the book to explain a few things that are not only pertinent to the story but make the digestion of the story afterwards more appealing.  There were indeed wolf trials in the British Isles and the mythology that Werner builds is based on the ancient mythos that has been ingrained in the belief system of Scotland for centuries.

Historical fact and mythology combine with a newer fiction as Werner weaves his tale he brings in characters that you probably have met before.  If you ever read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, than you will recognize her Victor when he makes a brief appearance in this book, and Henry Clerval is Charles’ cousin. I love that kind of thing, because not only does it pull on the existing literature, it adds a new twist that changes the way you think of the original.

Werner brings his comic background into them book in the form of artwork, simulated woodcuts that help to solidify certain parts of the story. He also makes small changes in the werewolf mythos so that this doesn’t feel like “just another werewolf story”.

Fans of the classic movie monsters will enjoy Rampant, but so will fans of horror fiction in general.  Joshua Werner has taken the werewolf story and infused it with a new moon-fueled life and the connection that he’s brought in with Mary Shelley only makes it a more enjoyable read.

Reviewed by Brad Gischia (@comicwasteland)

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