64 pgs. B&W | $13.99 softcover | W / A: Tina N. Lugo
Some time in Earth’s ancient past, “a human touched the heart of a beast” and the result was Lycans, human/wolf hybrids that split into four clans divided by their position in the human/wolf spectrum and their opinions on mixing with ordinary people. Each clan as their own protector class, known as Heketi, and our adventures follow Luth, who is six months into the grueling trials required to gain that vaunted status. During her travails, the Heketi hopeful finds friends and foes, including a bloodthirsty alligator, a sassy sidekick will-o’-wisp, and a cryptic bird hermit as she tries to outrun the destiny imposed upon her by the circumstances of her birth, which caused her clan to grant her the non-endearing nickname Dark Star, a destiny whose implications she is just starting to learn.
Writer/artist Tina N. Lugo wastes very little time getting the action cooking: three pages of info dump worldbuilding, two-and-a-half pages of atmosphere, and then the aforementioned alligator comes bursting onto the page and things don’t let up until about 60 pages later. This isn’t to say that the book is entirely non-stop action, but that Lugo finds a way to keep the tension high even in the slower moments, imbuing the story with a relentless forward motion that will keep you turning pages.
Lugo’s art and storytelling style bears a heavy 1990s shonen manga influence, with the feudal landscapes, horrific creatures, suave villains, and beclawed heroes of Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha being one obvious touchstone, though with the cartoony aspects of Takahashi’s art dialed down. Her Luth makes for a somewhat untraditional heroine, with her tomboyish attitude, messy pixie cut, perfunctory wardrobe, and bandaged arms and legs. Her design is quite simple, letting her stand in contrast with the carefully crafted animal characters and the ornate costuming of the other Lycans we meet in this first volume. The storytelling also takes cues from 1990s manga, though the pacing is much brisker thanks to the consistently high number of panels per page. There are a few instances of wonky anatomy, but on balance, the artwork is solid and the visual storytelling is compelling and crystal clear.
The Changeling, at least in its first volume, doesn’t spend any time philosophizing or speaking in metaphor. It’s not trying to rewire your world, it’s just trying to tell a good action story, which it does due to Luth’s constantly shifting circumstances and dense pages that keep the momentum surging ever forward. Does it succeed? Well, let’s just say I look forward to checking out volume 2. | Jason Green
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