With the third volume of Woodland Creatures now live on Kickstarter (the campaign for which you can check out here), it’s a good time to spread the word about the series – as it’s one that had flown under my radar until recently.

Based on a novel written by Cristina Roswell – which has so far only been available in Spanish (Roswell’s native language) – Woodland Creatures focuses on two main characters: Callie and Christopher. Both are lycanthropes, of sorts, with the younger Callie being a ruthless killer who takes pleasure in toying with her human prey; Christopher is an ex-soldier who has seen – and perhaps been part of – enough killing, so takes it upon himself to try and keep Callie in check. When invited to the UN in New York, it’s revealed that there are plans afoot to weaponise lycanthropes – whose existence is known to international governments, but kept secret from the general public. Having seen and experienced the horrors of war first-hand, as well as having the interests of his kind at heart and not wanting them to be treated as mere cannon fodder, Christopher strongly opposes the plan to force all lycanthropes into military servitude. Yet Callie’s seemingly uncontrollable animal instincts may be pushing the plan towards being implemented, even as Christopher is doing his best to stop it.

There’s a great deal of ground to cover in this first issue of Woodland Creatures – and for the most part, it does a great job of selling the concept of lycanthropes in the ‘real’ world as one to take seriously. These lycanthropes are very different to the classic image you may have in mind of werewolves, however – instead of transforming outright, they have telepathic bonds with wolves known as the ‘amaroq’. The amaroq and their bonds with their humanoid partners aren’t fully explained here, but with so much exposition to get through it’s hardly surprising that we don’t get more than a cursory explanation in this first issue. No doubt this will be explored in greater detail in the issues to come.

What we do get here is a remarkably sharp social and political allegory; it’s not hard to draw parallels between the events of this first issue and the way that many cultures or races are ‘othered’ and treated differently, simply because of the actions of a few rogue elements. Time and time again, history has shown that atrocities have been carried out with the barest justification; though we’re shown just how dangerous both of our main characters are right from the start – as well as hints at how savage lycanthropes can be in general – there’s still the sense that most lycanthropes can control themselves. After all, they’re generally a secret from the world at large anyway, right?

Fali Ruiz-Davila does a great job at adapting the source material into the comic medium – and artist Tomás Aira provides some absolutely stunning black-and-white art. There’s a very mature, down-to-earth feel to Woodland Creatures despite the fantasy elements; gore and nudity are certainly not something that the creators shy away from, though it doesn’t ever feel gratuitous.

It’s a very intriguing and unique take on lycanthropy and Woodland Creatures succeeds at making the perhaps outlandish concept feel somewhat believable. This first issue is a great exercise in worldbuilding that also succeeds in telling a compelling story alongside its – entirely necessary – exposition. Though a few elements are a little confusing and perhaps not explained enough in this issue, I’ve no doubt that things will be made clearer as the story progresses.

Woodland Creatures: Wild Souls #1 is well worth checking out and does make you instantly want to check out the next part of the story; thankfully, both of the first two issues are currently available as rewards in the currently live Kickstarter campaign for #3. You can check out and back the third issue’s campaign here.

Many thanks to Cristina Roswell for providing me with Woodland Creatures: Wild Souls #1 & #2 for review purposes. Look out for my review of #2 soon!

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