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Packs of the Low Country

by Olivier Roth on October 20, 2017

Packs of the Low Country

Written by: John Dudley
Pencils / Inks by: Don Cardenas
Letters by: John Westhoff (Chapters 2 - 6) & Don Cardenas (Prologue / Chapter 1)
Color art by: Mark Dale (Prologue / Chapters 2 - 6) & Kelly Fitzpatrick (Chapter 1)

 

Disclaimer: Comics the Gathering was contacted directly by the writer John Dudley who provided us with a review copy of his self-published original graphic novel (OGN) that will be launched as a Kickstarter on November 1. All views in this review are my own.

 

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, on to the review. Since this is not a singular issue and is a self-contained story, I will change my style of review a bit using more “hot-takes” on the entirety of the OGN.

 

Haven’t I read this before?

 

You may be asking yourself this when you begin to read this OGN. Dudley’s choice to begin his story with an actual prologue that gives us a background on the world we will be reading about for the next 170 so pages is a good one. It allows the reader to understand, in just a few pages with an unknown narrator as we are treated to the harsh realities of this new world.

 

Is this new territory? We’ve all seen the post-apocalyptic genre blow up in the past decade or so with works like the Hunger Games, Walking Dead, Colony, and The 100 (TV show) dominating not only the comic landscape, but books, TV and movies. Dudley though gives us his own take on the genre and after a complete read of the story, I was pleasantly surprised by the explanation of how this world came about. We get hints at the beginning, especially from the narrator telling us about the Invasion, but the actual answer is better than I could have imagined.

 

Powers? Who's got powers?

 

In this world that Dudley and Cardenas have built, we learn that certain characters have special abilities called users. At first, it seemed like a convenient excuse to have our main protagonists have supernatural powers to combat the enemy forces - which by the way, are bloodthirsty wolfmen. However, the addition of these powers is explained as the story develop and are not used a crutch to allow for splashy fight scenes, but as a means to deepen the mystery of the invasion.

 

Overflowing with characters

 

Speaking of the main characters, we have five in all, with some secondary characters. The first, and our narrator of the story is Bastion, a military man that has been sent with his group, the Select Unit, Mark and Helena (characters #2 and 3), to establish contact with what is believed to be the last fortification in the Active Lands - the lands that have been taken over by the invaders where human life is at a premium.

 

However, Bastion is suspicious from the word go as: 1. He doesn’t know his teammates and is cautious around them; 2. The mission briefing was “a joke” as he describes - light on details and saying very little. His suspicions come to life when, as his guides Lyle and Gills (character #4) are leading them deeper into the Active Lands -  he learns they are not going to the fortification, Fort Beau, but instead are going to the hidden laboratory of Dr. Beach (character #5). And Dr. Beach, as with most mad-science type of doctors, seems to have a lot of secrets and doesn’t seem to be someone to trust.    

 

Is there anyone else that I should look out for?

 

Yes, yes there is. I’ve always been a fan of comics that properly use their interludes, in the case of this OGN, a missive in between chapters written by the mysteries Agent T, to further the story along. In these missives by Agent T, we begin to learn a little about the initial fallout of the invasion that happened sixteen years ago. The question becomes however, are these missives in real-time, or more historical? That, I leave you, dear reader, to find out.

 

I do also enjoy the fact that these missives tend to be a little more lighthearted in tone, as we get to learn of the relationship between Agent T and General Conroy. Without spoiling too much of the OGN, we know that Agent T is in the Active Lands and is reporting their findings to General Conroy in the Free Lands.

 

What about the antagonists?

 

The antagonists of this OGN I’ll keep as a secret for the most part. Know this: we get to see a pack of wolfmen led by an intelligent being, we get the a few of the invaders appearing sprinkled throughout,,can we really trust Dr. Beach, and finally, the residents of Fort Beau don’t seem to be the nicest of people as is demonstrated in the prologue of the comic.

 

What I will say, though, is that the antagonists are used very effectively in this OGN. As you see, there are a few different antagonists that are introduced in this series in a very short span of time, but each, at the end of the OGN, had a role to play in the overarching story. Too often in comics, we will get a litany of bad guys who really do not bring anything to the story (I’m looking at you most Spider-Man films after the second one).   

 

Overall, how was it?

 

Well that’s the question right? As I began to read this OGN, I will not lie, I was a little apprehensive of the setting that Dudley and Cardenas were giving us. Post-apocalyptic style? No thanks. However, Dudley and Cardenas’ work and take on the genre soon won me over as I continued to read. Some of the tropes that are found in these types of stories remained - rag-tag group of misfit heroes, fortified human settlement in the middle of it all, mad-scientist - but a few of them were turned on their heads which was appreciated.

 

The mad-scientist bit? Maybe his quirkiness sticks to trope - he really loves his rock and roll and has a massive vinyl collection - but his motivations are fleshed out and are actually tinged with reason! Thank you!

 

The post-apocalyptic setting? Yes we get the typical “monsters everywhere, got to get to the human settlement” bit, but we also get to see the group have to fight for every step along the way as nothing comes easy to them.

 

Why are there powers? Comics always have powers! Well, the powers that the characters demonstrate throughout the story for one, get explained, which is not always the case, and two, are in service of the story and not the other way around.

 

In the end, I found Packs of the Low Country a very enjoyable read. The writing by Dudley was crisp and to the point and never veered into decompression, and the art by Cardenas was greatly enhanced by Mark Dale and Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colours. I can also say, Cardenas can draw a mean forest setting. Whenever our characters were outside in the brush, Cardenas’ art really popped.

Our Score:

8/10

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