Not new but fresh, Cry Havoc brings a story of using monsters for militaristic means. It’s a premise we’ve all seen before, but the feminine tone and perspective prevent the story from being stale.
Louise was young, a bit irresponsible and very much in love with her girlfriend. That was before being attacked in the street by a werewolf (hey, it’s tough being a street musician). Now she volunteers with a special forces unit, hunting down monsters in the hopes of being cured from her affliction.
What really brings this story to life is the insight writer Simon Spurrier breathes into his characters through their dialogue and insights. Louise’s girlfriend’s first appearance takes place at the zoo where a fair amount of time is spent discussing hyenas. Specifically, the topic of matriarchal practices and pseudo-penises lends itself to this feminist lens, usurping the dominant status of males while placing the power and ferocity in our central character without the demand of actually demonstrating it within the first issue.
Louise and her group of militants are seeking out another werewolf, rogue commander Lynn Odell. In this regard the story also manages to set itself apart from Marvel’s Legion of Monsters and DC’s Creature Commandos by taking its feminist approach to Louise’s human experience. Instead of her lycanthropy being gimmicky, it serves as an effective metaphor for her inner power and emotional complexity. Further, the sororal conflict allows more of a cultural review than similar stories that feel more like they were written by an eight-year-old boy playing with his action figures.
Most interestingly, this comic employs three different colorists, each tasked to one of the distinct time periods in the story. This is a fantastic choice by Emma Price and most effective in tying the chronology of the stories wandering narrative together. With zero confusion and little to no explanation, the reader jumps through Louise’s life without needing to reorient or seek out context clues. All three colorists are very talented, but Matt Wilson stands out with his attention to Ryan Kelly’s line-work. Wilson’s warm tones provide great dimensionality and awareness as to where the light falls in each scene. The mundane details to the supernatural glowing bring the Afghanistan-portion of the story to life all thanks to his skill.
Though the rest of Louise’s mysterious team will surely be important in later issues, they serve largely as a distraction here and, in a way, even undermine how special she is. If she were the only character with powers or special circumstances, the lycanthropy would seem to really make Louise stand out as a powerful woman. If all the characters were werewolves, it would seem to be a metaphor for the hidden power within everyone. That so much time is spent establishing that everyone else is a bit different but not really getting into how really distracts from what is, so far, the story of a woman coming into her own strength. The rest of the team confuse the metaphor.
The tone is on-point which makes it easy to believe these observations will be resolved going forward. In fact, it’s the book’s voice that makes the next issue so enticing. Now, would anyone like to place bets on whether or not Louise killed her girlfriend?