Jacey is a troubled runaway searching for the man who disappeared with her brother. David turns into a giant shadowy wolf monster. They fight crime. Or at least, they hunt down men who, as David describes them, ‘can’t be fixed.’ Now that they’ve found The Important Man who took her brother, what will Jacey and David do when they come into conflict about how they’ll kill him?
I Walk With Monsters #3 continues the series’ focus on moody storytelling, grim silences, and the struggle of overcoming trauma. This issue is mostly focused on a disagreement between the main characters. Now that they’ve found The Important Man, a politician very close to securing a nomination for President of the United States, both of them think they should be the one to kill him. As with the first two issues, this argument is punctuated by flashback sequences of Jacey’s and David’s pasts. The reader gets a clearer understanding of why Jacey is where she is, and we get the first glimpses of David’s backstory. It is in this section that writer Paul Cornell makes something explicit that has been hanging over the book from the beginning. David isn’t a victim of abuse. He’s a perpetrator.
Up to this point, David’s guilt has seemed to come from his ability to shift into a shadowy monster form, and the actions he took in that form. But I Walk With Monsters #3 shows us what kind of person David is in a string of his past interactions with women, and they are a string of textbook abusive tactics. The sequence sheds new light on the dynamic between the two leads. David is trying to use his powers to kill bad men in an attempt to assuage his guilt and to save Jacey. Jacey didn’t ask to be saved. She isn’t going to absolve him of what he’s done and she’s seeking revenge, not healing.
Trauma and the ways it twists the soul are at the heart of this story, and it doesn’t pull any punches. I Walk With Monsters transposes its dark themes with pastoral landscapes and the tranquil vistas of rural America. The leads plot in roadside diners and do recognizance at the State Fair. Which state, like the name of the Important Man himself is left purposefully vague. this is a comic that is happening everywhere.
The setting is as effective as it is thanks to the chilling and phenomenal art by Sally Cantirino with colors by Dearbhla Kelly. There are a lot of beautiful but disturbing touches in the art of this issue. Cantirino fills the page with Dutch angles and low points of view, creating a dark atmosphere in just a few panels. Dearbhla’s color palette, consisting of somber browns and grays, creates a subdued, autumnal tone that transforms otherwise mundane settings into something sinister. And always, her purple-black shadows, reserved for the supernatural elements of the story, feel like they are laying in wait to burst from the page.
I particularly enjoyed an early sequence in the issue in which David uses his abilities to track the Important Man by smell. The scent first appears as a red thread tangled among a crowd of other colors. As he follows it back to the house where he is staying, it slowly shifts over a sequence of panels into a trail of dripping blood.
I don’t have much bad to say about this issue. Cornell and Cantirino are slowly turning up the pressure on this already grotesque and dark story. I did find the story a little difficult to follow in places — frequent use of flashback and fantasy imagery creates an atmosphere of unreality that is useful to the story, but makes it occasionally unclear when and where the reader is within it.
I Walk With Monsters #3 continues to slowly raise the heat on this psychological and supernatural horror story pointed straight at the rot in the heart of America. I strongly recommend it.
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