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Monday, September 17, 2018

Misty Volume 3

The third Rebellion collection from the pages of the 1980s girls' horror comic Misty breaks ranks with the previous two volumes by carrying only one serial story compared to the previous two. However, this makes sense as the volume has more of a thematic basis for its contents. I'll take this opportunity to say that this review contains a couple of spoilers.

You'll guess the theme from the title of the lead serial, "Wolf Girl". This long (62-page) lead story concerns a young girl who has been raised by a wolf since she was a baby. She was discovered by the grieving wolf, whose cub had been killed by hunters, wrapped in a shawl on the road, a car crash having killed her parents on a remote mountain road in eastern Europe. The child survives for two years in the wolf's company before soldiers discover her and return her to an orphanage in England.

Years later, and unaware of her adoption, Lona Williams is now a schoolgirl living in the quiet village of Woodvale suffering from uncertainty and anxiety about herself and her life. On her way to school, bullies try to take her lunch money and she instinctively reacts, growling and snarling at them until they run. Back at home, she overhears her parents discussing her adoption and that she was raised by a wolf... and now she fears grow even greater: "That's why I've behaved so strangely lately! That's why you've been so worried for me! The instincts of a wolf have been buried in my mind all these years – but now they're taking over!"

Feral wolf children are a fictional staple dating back to Roman legend (Romulus & Remus), while the most famous modern examples of children raised by animals would probably be Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli (The Jungle Book) and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan. There have also been real cases of children living amongst wild animals – 21st century examples being the discovery of a "Mowgli Boy" named Traian, who spent years living in the forests of Transylvania before being reunited with his mother, and Andrei Tolstyk, who was raised by a dog in remote Sibera for seven years.

In "Wolf Girl", Lona begins suffering memory lapses, which convinces her that everything she does is a throwback to her early upbringing and, somehow, she is turning into a wolf. Her mum puts this worry down to normal "teenage blues" that every girl goes through, and the Williams family set off for Scotland for a holiday. Lona, feeling more out of place than ever, runs off and encourages her "inner wolf" by releasing six real wolves from a wildlife park.

Now faced with an army of hunters trying to kill the wolves, Lona also has to battle the pack leader of the wolves for dominance.

On the surface, the story is of the "daft but entertaining" variety, saved from silliness by the convincing realism of the art by Eduardo Feito. However, it could be argued that the story isn't about wolves at all and that, through the medium of a Gothic-style horror yarn, we are watching Lona emerge from childhood to womanhood and, eventually, motherhood. The core of the story is the mystery "Is Lona turning into a wolf?" Not in the werewolf sense, but in the sense of having been trained from near birth to act like a wolf. There are hints that she might be a superheroine: her ability to control (most) wolves, her sackcloth clothing forming a rudimentary costume and cape, and the title of the strip giving her a name... Wolf Girl. Certainly the story has a darkness to it that lifts it out of the ordinary.

The short stories are a mixed bunch. "Poor Jenny" and "The Curse of the Wolf" are both variations on the werewolf legend; "Twin Catastrophes" is another story of a girl raised by wolves (drawn by Enrique Badia Romero, of "Modesty Blaise" fame, rather than his brother as the book credits, I believe) but with a werewolf twist; and "Wolfsbane" (which is by Jorge Badia Romero) has a girl run from a werewolf only to find herself in the paws of another attacker.

Of the four, the third is probably my favourite as it has a genuine Hammer horror setting – the lonely chateau, horse drawn carriages, girls in bonnets, the works! – although the last runs it a close second.

Misty Vol. 3: Wolf Girl & Other Stories by Eduardo Feito, Jordi Badia Romero et al. Rebellion ISBN 9781781086513, 20 September 2018, £13.99. Available via Amazon.

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