Art: Matias Basla & Steve Babb
Bluewater, out now
The first thing to notice when opening The Claw and Fang is the incredible art. Matias Basla’s illustrations are striking, evocative and powerful to look at. His use of greyscale, highlighted with purples and blues, creates an almost gothic feel that underscores the themes of destiny, sacrifice and redemption that inform the narrative. At times the artwork in The Claw and Fang is reminiscent of the later issues of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman. The style of Basla’s art is less about realism or a classic comic book aesthetic and instead embraces a more emotive, impressionist approach. It is this visual aspect of this book that I enjoyed more than anything else.
In many ways A Claw and Fang is a fairly standard good vs. evil tale wherein the young nobody (Justin) discovers he is actually the reincarnation of a legendary warrior king, destined to save the world from the evil clutches of the demon Noro. This is a trope as old as time and The Claw and Fang really doesn’t attempt to deviate in any way from the established narrative tradition. However, writer Michael Kutcher maintains a uniquely dark and eerie atmosphere throughout that is very compelling.
At the novel’s beginning the hero, Justin, is an apathetic youth who spends his spare time immersed in a computer game. The subtle commentary on the growing culture of online gaming, particularly World of Warcraft, in society is interesting although in the end it doesn’t seem to come to much. Hopefully this thread will be picked up in any sequels.
Some aspects of the story remain unclear although, again, these may well be dealt with in later books. For instance, I was uncertain how Justin defeats Noro at the novel’s conclusion. One minute he is lying helpless on the ground about to be sliced in half; the next he unleashes some kind of power on Noro. Although I’m willing to concede that perhaps the prospect of defeat led Justin to access previously unknown magical powers, it would have had more emotional resonance if such power had been established earlier in the story. As it is, the victory feels confusing and unjustified.
Verdict: The Claw and Fang is a good read. The art is truly impressive and more than makes up for the predictability in the narrative. 7/10