COYOTES #5 by Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky
COYOTES #5 is a riveting start to a new arc in Sean Lewis' werewolf-filled recreation of the Little Red Riding Hood story. With magical artwork by Caitlin Yarsky, COYOTES #5 takes Red deeper on the hunt for her sister's murderer.
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What if the Big Bad Wolf was a man in wolf’s clothing? Specifically, what if he was a blood-thirsty werewolf? There are many incarnations of Little Red Riding Hood. Some emphasize the young girl’s naivety. Others get a happier spin, with a manly hunter who rescues the little girl and her poor grandmother from the jaws of death. While many (from Roald Dahl to the movie HOODWINKED) have tried to create a savvier or more feminist Little Red, Sean Lewis’ horror fantasy COYOTES goes further, complicating the fairy tale with a daring twist. With the help of artist Caitlin Yarsky, COYOTES combines folklore and mythology with dark sci-fi themes. The gripping comic critiques toxic masculinity and condemns violence against women, especially women of color. COYOTES #5 takes Lewis’ young heroine, Red, and one of her badass abuelas on a new arc as Red tracks down the werewolves who murdered her sister.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

After the first arc, Lewis uses COYOTES #5 to explain some of the series’ complex background. Lewis carefully weaves an origin story that accounts for the wolves who terrorize the living creatures created by the goddess Gaia. Previous issues revealed that men who have access to the meat and pelts of wolves become monstrous werewolves called “coyotes.” The corrupt coyotes hunt and murder women. As a result of the attacks, women have joined forces in matriarchal vigilante groups to keep themselves protected. COYOTES #4 saw Red’s group, the Victorias, liberate an ancient wolf in order to stop a band of coyotes. Now, Red and her abuelas are tracking down women in need of protection from the monstrous beasts.

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Grandma Packs a Punch

COYOTES #5 emphasizes the powerful grandmothers who maintain the world’s natural balance and protect Gaia’s creatures. The gnarly, cigar-smoking granny who guides Red is nothing short of menacing. The twist honors the cultural importance of grandmothers as storytellers and archivists. Moreover, the comic does not give into the infantilization of the elderly. Red’s abuela is ready for a fight. Additionally, the comic highlights the importance of listening to the ancient knowledge of old and independent women.

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

COYOTES #5 gives the old grandmother a chance to help readers understand the dangerous and complex landscape of Lewis’ story. Indeed, COYOTES #5 steps in with clarifications that previous issues lacked. Consequently, readers feel less disoriented and more aligned with Red’s goals.

As the abuela explains the history of Gaia and the wolves, Yarsky twists the images in the old woman’s tale around Red. Yarsky’s artwork reveals the beauty in the natural ecosystems. However, danger lurks at every turn and the abuela does not hide this from Red. Yarsky’s artwork moves from bright to terrifying, changing moods with Lewis’ narrative.

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Shedding Toxic Masculinity

The wolves and coyotes seem to bear the burden of symbolizing toxic masculinity. The abuela suggests that the wolves were angry at Gaia and wanted to make other creatures suffer alongside them. Interestingly, while the werewolves are filled with rage, the men under the coyote pelts are remorseful in the face of the matriarchy. Like her abuela, Red is ready to fight for revenge against the lycanthropes. However, COYOTES #5 inserts an ethical problem for Red and her abuela that previous issues do not address. Namely, is there a way to forgive the men who took on the guises of coyotes? Is there a way to end the constant cycle of revenge?

Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Lewis carefully approaches this topic in COYOTES #5. Indeed, the entire series depicts the trauma of violence against women. However, this issue gives Red the opportunity to take a different approach to processing the trauma of her sister’s murder. Having a group of women to support and guide her is a key aspect to Red’s development. However, as Red finds new ways to engage with the coyotes, she may discover new ways to heal.

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COYOTES #5: Exploring the Nature of Evil

Although Lewis’ comic verges on horror, Yarsky’s artwork is mesmerizing. Yarsky strikes a balance between the terrible transformations, violence, and gore of the comic and the beauty of each illustration. As horrible as the coyotes are, their movement and power bursts off the page. Yarsky’s style echoes the abuela’s point that the balance between good and evil is a key part of their story. Likewise, Yarsky’s art portrays evil, but doesn’t let the (beautifully illustrated) wolves run away with the story.

COYOTES #5 takes Red and her grannies down a new path. If Red hopes to heal from the traumas of her childhood, she will have to find a way to face the coyotes without destroying herself. As Lewis explores the evils of violence against women, Yarsky’s artwork emphasizes the power and resilience of women who survived. COYOTES #5 gives readers a firmer understanding of the series’ interwoven plots, but many questions still remain.

COYOTES #5 is available here on August 15th!

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