By Todd Allen
Curse of the Wendigo is a graphic album coming out tomorrow from Dynamite written by Mathieu Missoffe and drawn by Charlie Adlard. Missoffe is a French screenwriter who moonlights in comics (an increasingly American thing to be doing, it would seem). Adlard is probably most familiar to comics audience as the artist on Walking Dead. As you might guess from the phrase “graphic album,” Curse of the Wendigo was originally published in France by Soliel in 2009. Yes, the same Soliel that Marvel was publishing translations of a few years back.
Wendigo falls broadly into the category of the historical horror novel. I was reminded a little of F. Paul Wilson’s The Keep while I was reading it. Set in the trenches of France during World War I, something is killing soldiers and leaving a lot of blood lying around. And… well, there’s “Wendigo” in the title, so you can probably guess where we’re going.
Wendigos aren’t the most common monster. Oh, sure, you’ve got Marvel’s version that pops up from time to time in the Hulk, but the cannibalistic monster from Algonquin Indian mythology’s last mass media appearance was probably the 1999 film Ravenous. The wendigo in Curse of the Wendigo is reasonably close to the classical myth and, in a nice touch, there’s a sub-plot involving two psychiatrists debating the validity of the “Windigo Psychosis,” a mental disorder that drives people to cannibalism. The setting and time period are used to good effect, both for mood and adding a bit more realism around the edges of the story.
This is a tight, slightly claustrophobic tale. Atmosphere frequently makes or breaks horror stories and the atmosphere works here. You’d expect that from Adlard, given his time on Walking Dead, but the color adds depth the environment that you don’t get in the zombie tales. As with classic horror tradition, you get a couple good twists on the way out to shake things up. Better, the twists are still in a straight line for the book’s internal logic. Shocks alternate between gore and psychological implications of what’s happening.
You might have a short pause that this is a thin book. This is not a 5-minute, decompressed storytelling read. Coming from the European tradition, rather than the Japanese, these are reasonably dense, high panel count pages. Curse of the Wendigo is what I’d call a plot-driven project and the narrative stays on path. The end product feels about the same as a film, story-wise.
Recommended for fans of horror and horror movies. Bonus points if you like period pieces with your horror (The Keep, American Vampire, etc.)
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.