Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Red Pages: Ferals by David Lapham - Review

Welcome to The Red Pages, a new ongoing addition to Afraid of the Dark focusing on the world of horror books and comics.  Here I’ll be reviewing any interesting horror titles that I come across and hopefully interviewing some of the creative talent involved.

I can’t claim to be terribly familiar with David Lapham’s comic book work.  I read a handful of issues of Stray Bullets back in the nineties and that’s about the extent of it.  I remember being impressed and it's a title I've been promising myself for years that I'll return to.  In the wake of his work on Avatar Press' reportedly brilliant apocalyptic horror title Crossed (a comic I'll be covering in The Red Pages soon) comes his latest, Ferals, which was recommended to me via Twitter when I announced that I was planning a monthly column focusing on horror comics.  If the person who recommended it to me is reading this; THANK YOU!!! This comic pretty much knocked my socks off.

Ferals tells the tale of small town sheriff Dale Chesnutt who, after a drunken sexual encounter with a beautiful blonde who gets off on being roughed up whilst she gets off, finds himself infected with a condition which has transformed him into something that is part man/part wolf and is entirely capable of tearing a man to pieces with his bare hands.  As the story progresses he finds himself in the employ of the FBI who place him undercover within a community of ferals (as these human/wolf hybrids are known).  There he comes to accept his condition and finding himself sympathising with these descendants of Vikings winds up caught between two factions one of which is planning to unleash an army of werewolves upon humankind.  Over the course of 18 issues the ever worsening situation between the two factions of feral-kind and humanity develops into something that promises to become apocalyptic when the next phase of the story begins in Ferals Unleashed #1 which is due to be released within the next few months.

I have in the past occasionally dipped my toes into the lurid and bloody waters of Avatar Press.  As an independent publisher they have cornered the market in ultra-violent, sexually explicit comic books and boy do they not have boundaries.  Taboos aren't so much busted but rather exploded in an ultra messy fashion that treats political correctness like a foreign country that will never be acknowledged never mind visited.  There used to be, and possibly still is, a general belief that comic books are kids stuff.  A quick flick through almost any comic published by Avatar would soon set fire to that idea.  Most of their titles go heavy on the violence with an (un)healthy side order of explicit sex (sometimes in the same panel).  It goes without saying...most Avatar titles are not for the prudish.  Ferals is no different.  The first issue alone ends with a werewolf leaving the dismembered, headless and entirely naked corpse of the main character's wife on the back lawn.  Ladies and gentlemen...this comic does not fuck around.

Now I'm not about to suggest that Ferals is some kind of masterpiece of comic book storytelling.  It's not and I don't think that's what it's trying to be.  What it is though is an astonishingly gory, action packed, taboo shattering tale that hurtles along at a breathless pace and is just plain fun.  Something else I can state with absolute honesty is that it's never boring.  When the characters aren't fucking each other in the carnal sense or fucking each other in the betrayal sense they're ripping each other or some poor innocent party limb from limb with visceral abandon.  It makes for an exciting read and having raced through the first 18 issues in less than a day I can attest to how addictive it is.  I was turning the pages so fast they were in danger of catching fire.

One of the main things that makes this comic book work is the artwork.  I'm unfamiliar with Gabriel Andrade but his work on Ferals is outstanding.  This is an artist who understands how to compose an action scene that flows beautifully from panel to panel in a fashion that never leaves the reader in doubt as to what is happening.  He also has a keen eye for presenting the nastier elements of the story in a fierce visceral fashion that's often breathtaking in it's determination to step over the line into truly disturbing, stomach churning territory.  Andrade is ably assisted by Digikore Studios who are responsible for the colouring.

Overall Ferals is a highly entertaining read.  If you're a fan of both horror and comics this, though somewhat lacking in subtlety (subtlety be damned), comes highly recommended.  Especially if you're a fan of werewolves in either (or both) cinema and literature.  Judging from where the story leaves off at the end of issue #18 I can't wait to see what Lapham and Andrade have in store for us when Ferals: Unleashed arrives.  Highly recommended if you're in the mood for a somewhat original blood-soaked werewolf comic with wonderful art and a thoroughly engaging story.

Steve's score:


  1. "I was turning the pages so fast they were in danger of catching fire."

    This is an exquisite review! You cover all the necessary bases, without giving away the minutiae. Yr excited about yr writing about, which comes across, and makes me want to read the comic. Which i will, now. Thanks for the heads up! Stoked to find some good horror comics that have been coming out. Keep it up!

  2. Thank you for your kind words. When you do check out Ferals come back and let me know whether you enjoyed it.