COYOTES #1 by Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky
COYOTES #1 is a brilliant foray into paranormal action/horror. With an interesting lead and supporting cast, as well as a breakneck plot, fans of Urban Fantasy need to read this series.
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Halloween has come and gone, and that has got me feeling nostalgic for horror. The horror genre has a grand modern history, featuring monsters and psychopaths not found anywhere else in film. Sadly, the past decade has worked against our favorite monsters. Vampires sparkle and werewolves roam around all brooding and shirtless.

I don’t mean to attack fans of TWILIGHT or similar paranormal romance stories. I simply note that the monsters of the past are not what they once were, and I feel like we can have both perspectives. Where are our Pinheads and Freddy Kreugers? Thankfully, Image Comics has not followed this trend. Pairing with writer Sean Lewis and artist Caitlin Yarsky, Image brings readers the fantastically bloody COYOTES #1.

In COYOTES #1, readers follow a young girl named Analia. Born in the City of Lost Girls, Analia loses her mother and sister to a pack of ravenous white coyotes at a young age. Taken in by the mysterious Duchess, Analia and her friend Eyepatch learn that the coyotes may be more than feral canines.

They actually belong to a species of werewolves that have plagued the City of Lost Girls for years. The Duchess trains Analia in all forms of martial arts, preparing her for the day when she begins hunting the monsters. After her first hunt, though, a run-in with the local authorities may cause more problems for Analia than expected.

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Blunt Force Trauma

Courtesy of Image Comics

From the opening pages, you know exactly what type of story COYOTES #1 will be. Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky do an amazing job setting a scene that is both surreal and horrifying. We first see Frank Coffey, a local law enforcement officer, rolling through fields of large red crosses in the City of Lost Girls.

Not a page later, though, does Lewis drop us into a two-page splash image of Analia, standing amidst a pile of dead bodies. Lewis crafts a story that feels like a mix of gritty realism and folklore. He thrusts us into a Grimm fairy tale, the original versions with blood and violence mixing into a world of surprising, surreal beauty. The fairy tale shatters, and it is a brutally beautiful thing.

Lewis knows how to craft a story. By dropping us into this immediately striking environment, readers want nothing more than to explore. And readers do get to explore almost immediately. As the story continues, we see glimpses of the traumas of Analia’s past at break-neck speed. While I could complain about this speedy delivery, it works well for this story.

Analia as a young woman has lost everything, but we watch her try to recreate her sense of self from page 4 onward, after facing the trauma of her family’s brutal deaths. As such, trauma would distort her mental perceptions of history. Still, her training under the Duchess and the first issue’s climactic battle with the Coyote pack feel wholly satisfying and leave just enough questions unanswered to draw me into issue 2

The Mind of Analia

Courtesy of Image Comics

The strongest aspect of COYOTES #1 stems from the characters, though. The story is bound to be interesting, mixing elements of UNDERWORLD and HELLBOY with allusions to Little Red Riding Hood. However, without interesting characters, this story would fall off my radar. Luckily, Lewis has created a culture and a language wholly unique to this world.

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Analia feels immediately interesting. Our first experiences with this girl see her standing amidst of bloody bodies, but the glimpses into her mind grabbed me quickly. We see a girl who is cynical far too early, who is hurt but doesn’t want to admit it. Her whole life to this point has been training and preparing to kill werewolves, and it is reflected in the way she thinks.

Her thoughts are all reflections of the Duchess’s twisted teachings. “That shit’s jodido. That shit is what the Duchess calls Straight Fucked Up.” This vulgar language and cynical view of the world immediately intrigued me. It had me asking questions which pulled me through the heavy action sequences and darkest moments of COYOTES #1.

As for the Duchess, by the end of COYOTES #1, we know very little about her character. And yet, I feel deeply attached to her. Lewis sums up a lot of COYOTES #1 in this character alone. She wears Victorian-era clothing and uses her wit and forceful personality to head a clan of werewolf hunters.

Also, she trains Analia with old kung fu movies and reinforces her worldview with every word. Duchess is equal parts untrustworthy and inspiring. While the rest of the cast only finds brief introductions in this issue, the Duchess and Analia will constantly bring you back to COYOTES #1 for more.

Yarsky’s View

Courtesy of Image Comics

COYOTES #1 marks Caitlin Yarsky’s first foray into professional comics, and it is a true vision of her abilities. Her style feels unique in its stylization, anatomically correct without breaching the uncanny valley. Also, Yarsky fills every stroke with energy, and the muted color scheme helps create a gritty feel for the COYOTES #1. Also, she constantly amazes with her use of color, as these same muted colors make bright colors (like blood) blatantly obvious.

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Her use of color also helps separate the “real” world with the home and stylings of the Duchess. During a party in the midst of the issue, bright reds, golds, and greens accentuate the party-goers and give them an otherworldly feel. This moment also gives readers a second to breathe in the midst of all the fighting and blood in the series. I can’t wait to see Yarsky’s future work on this series. It is truly a masterpiece of the medium.

Final Thoughts: COYOTES #1

COYOTES #1 is not horror in the strictest sense. Gritty supernatural action may represent my best description. Still, this high-speed, action-packed, character-driven story is beautifully drawn and written. Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky open the doors to a mystery that you will want to solve. While the supporting character falls by the wayside in COYOTES #1, the Duchess and Analia will keep you coming back time and time again!

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