Written and Drawn by: Erik Evensen, Letters by Matt Talbot, and Colors by Jeff Fugelsang
Erik created a serene little town. An out-of-the-way, woodsy town, that you can find all over America. It reminds me a lot of Upper Peninsula Michigan or other seaside towns along the Great Lakes. Hart College is the focal point of the beginning of the story. It’s a small college full of small people trying to get by. The students goof off and the professors shake their heads in wonderment at how their parents continue to foot the bill.
Evensen’s The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay is a very interesting take on the Beowulf legend and characters. Winifred “Freddie” Roth is an amalgam of Beowulf characters. Evensen himself explains in his closing notes that, “Her [Winfred’s] role takes on qualities of Wealtheow, Hrothgar’s wife, Freawaru, Hrothgar’s daughter, and Wiglaf, Beowulf’s soldier, along with a bit of Beowulf himself.” In the story she is a tenure track professor who nobody seems to take very seriously, at first. The same can be said about Brian Wegman, a nerdy, slacking doctoral candidate. He struggles to find any passion in his life or work. He is an unlikely version of our hero Beowulf in this version, which I think is a very unique take on the character. It says a lot about the capacity of people for heroic behavior when the circumstances warrant. The story really starts for me when Freddie and Brian meet.
Freddie’s Father is the local Sheriff Gary Roth, even his name tells you that he is Hrothgar in this tale. He brings his daughter and Brian together to consult on the case of a strange double murder near Hart Lake. Evensen’s knowledge about folklore, anthropology, and even forensic science, is very apparent in his writing, but he makes it accessible. He doesn’t write so far above the reader’s head that they get lost or bored. His dialogue flows nicely, whether its technical jargon, or the competitive banter between Brian and Freddie. You feel the passion that each of the main characters feels toward their science. No one in the story seems to believe that the deaths could be the result of a Bigfoot or Wendigo, although the evidence seems to lead you down that path. Freddie and Brian do a great job of weaving the folklore and science into plausible human answers to seemingly impossible evidence. Overall, the writing is smart, but not over-bearing. By the end of the story I really felt like I knew and understood most of the characters.
The art, also done by Evensen, is solid. He does a very nice job of conveying emotion in the faces of his characters. It’s fairly simple, but crisp work, that definitely helps tell the story. The artwork is reminiscent of Charlie Adlard‘s work on the Walking Dead, but includes the added dimension of color. He even does a nice job with most of the background work, especially when they are outside. Unfortunately, the climactic scenes happen in caves, which leaves little in the backgrounds, and takes something away from the action.
I really had no idea what to expect when I took on this review, but, I really liked this story, and felt a bit of deja vu the whole time. It wasn’t until I read Evensen’s closing notes, and realized the homage to Beowulf, that I fully grasped the reason for my feeling. I immediately read the story again and thoroughly enjoyed the references, veiled or more obvious. The dialogue was fun, informative, and most importantly accessible. I liked the characters and really wouldn’t mind seeing them again, as was teased at the end. The art added to the story and certainly didn’t distract me by failing to match up with the dialogue. This Graphic Novel was at least partially funded by Kickstarter. I’m always impressed by creators with the confidence and perseverance to go to any lengths to achieve their dreams. This book is further proof that there is a lot of good work out there that we may never see unless the creators find ways of “crowd-funding” their projects. Give The Beast of Wolfe’s Bay a chance, you won’t regret it. I didn’t!