Erik Evensen first caught my attention back in 2007 with his Xeric-winning Gods of Asgard. It was a great read, but it's only now that he's come out with his second graphic novel, The Beast of Wolfe's Bay. It was originally a Kickstarter project, but it's now conventionally available through Amazon and other retailers. (Full disclosure: I backed said Kickstarter and am name-checked in the book a few times.)
The story concerns two young college professors who get called in for an investigation into some strange goings-on in Hart Lake Village. (The sherriff is the father of one of the professors, and is friends with the parents of the other.) Two students disappeared over spring break, and the evidence from the crime scene doesn't make much forensic sense. The sherriff's personal theory is Bigfoot, but the professors are naturally skeptical. That is, until one barges in on their cabin. Well, something barges in on their cabin at any rate. But the real manhunt begins when one of the deputies disappears. I won't spoil the rest of the story, but suffice it to say that what they find is surprising on several levels.
This book is different than Evensen's Gods of Asgard in a couple noteable respects. First, Wolfe's Bay is one single narrative, whereas Gods was a series of short stories. Second, while Gods was written by Evensen, the basic stories were taken directly from mythology; the story in Wolfe's Bay is wholly Evensen's own (though he does openly acknowledge some influences from Beowulf). Finally, and least significantly, Wolfe's Bay is in color. I point these things out to say that Wolfe's Bay is a very different type of book than Gods. Evensen has different goals here and different challenges.
I think what stands out most for me are the characters. Several have some degree of "geekery" to them, but they all come at it from different levels of appreciation. Winifred is a sci-fi geek who drops Red Dwarf references, wears Dr. Who t-shirts and sports a custom Back to the Future license plate, while Brian barely remembers watching the old Hitchhiker's TV show a decade or two back. Meanwhile the coroner and the deputy debate Star Trek: TNG episodes claiming that it's "totally mainstream" by comparison. While it's clear this stems from Evensen's own tastes in fiction, I liked how he spread the interests around to different characters, and allowed them to appreciate things at different levels. It provides them all with some depth beyond their narrative roles in the story. Not every character has a sci-fi affection, mind you, but the variety of ways it's expressed in those that do serve to highlight how Evensen's given thought to each character as an rounded individual.
The story holds together fairly well overall. If I might make one criticism on that front, it's the introduction of the ultimate antagonist. The character is named-dropped in passing about halfway through, but then doesn't make an appearance of any sort until the last fourteen pages. It seems a little sudden and staggers the narrative flow, I think, a bit uncomfortably. Had Brian mentioned his recollection at the name earlier on, or something to call just a tad more attention to that name over the others that it was strung together with, I think that would have made things a little smoother structurally.
Apart from that, however, I thought the story flowed very smoothly. Evensen's dialogue is crisp and his artistic skills shine very well here. But, as I said, it's really the characters that stood out for me. I know Evensen earns most of his keep as a graphic designer, but you should all buy The Beast of Wolfe's Bay to help incent him into doing comics full-time.
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