Article by, Matt Gorman
Writer: Kelly Bender
Artist: Nathan Kelly
Colors: Josh Jensen
Letters: Micah Myers
A darkened alleyway, a foggy cemetery, an abandoned mansion, each with a twist of reality, something out of place. These are the workplaces of icons like Kolchack, and agents Mulder and Skully. They helped define a beloved genre of the weird and the unknown. Like them, Snarl’s Detectives Bevil and Sagun find themselves chasing something sinister through the shadows. Written by Kelly Bender (Convoy of Corpses, Starburn) this story reads like a pilot for a sci-fi series, visceral, mysterious, and just cliche enough to be charming. The art, a high-contrast style, was lined by Nathan Kelly and colored by Josh Jensen.
Detective Bevil is a believer; no matter how absurd the conclusions are, Bevil looks the facts in the eye. Bevil knows what it means to be a detective, and how to do it well. Complimenting Bevil is detective Sagun, a skeptic and a realist. She’s sarcastic, calling names and making fun, but when things get rough, so does she. Snarl follows Bevil and Sagun as they work a string homicides and maimings, all with the same wolf prints at each crime scene. The buzz in the paper is on about werewolves, and Bevil is trusted to see the case solved before the incidents garner national attention. His first and best lead is an old Native American legend: the Yee Naaldlooshii, or skin-walker.
The writer and co-creator of Snarl, Kelly Bender must be a fan of sci-fi television, because his storytelling is reminiscent to it in the best way. Screaming to be adapted for the screen, Kelly sets Snarl as a flashback, book-ended by exposition and twist-hanger. The format is attractive, and suits the tone and this particular tale well. There are tropes employed, but only insofar as to cement Snarl in the genre. The characters, almost tropes themselves, are characterized well, but almost don’t need to be. It’s as if the tone, mood, and genre of the work make the reader expect and infer the characters. It’s a case of the characters being who they need to be. Intentional or not, it’s executed well.
Contrast, and heavy-blacks darken the pages of Snarl. Nathan Kelly shows us a unique style of hard, ragged, but defined linework and swaths of shadow. I found that I liked Kelly’s environment illustration in particular, his mind for composition and perspective showing boldly through. Something about the grittiness of his work brings me back to the urban sprawls of Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan, though I can’t place it. In conjunction with Kelly’s bold base, Josh Jensen colors Snarl with a palette of nearly pastel blues and greens. However, with such dark framework, they look almost sickly, further defining the macabre mood of Snarl. What bright color is used is used sparingly for moments of sudden action and gore, though even those don’t reach intense saturation.
In all, Snarl does one thing astoundingly well; it places itself firmly within a genre, and that can add a lot of depth to a story through association and expectation. The linework and color collaborate with the storytelling to frame it as a horror-mystery, with supernatural elements unfolding slowly throughout the course of the plot. For a one-off, Snarl is a lot of fun. Snarl was released May 13th, 2015 and is available for only $5 here!