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Skinwalker #2

Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell



Writers: Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir
Artists: Brian Hurtt (p), Arthur Dela Cruz (i)

Publisher: Oni Press

Plot:
The book opens with FBI agent Haworth making contact with the Bureau to let them know that one of their agents has been skinned alive as part of twisted version of an ancient Navajo ritual, performed by a disturbed young man named Charlie Wiletto. We then see him & Officer Adakai, the local Navajo police presence, visit Charlie's home, where they find the boy's mother dead in the bath tub with her throat slit. As the FBI descends on the small Navajo community, we see that Officer Adakai & Agent Haworth find themselves on the outside looking in at the investigation. In a bid to make themselves feel useful the two pay a visit to the local expert on the Navajo ritual that Charlie performed, and they discover this ritual normally involves the use of an animal's skin to obtain that animal's abilities. When Charlie is spotted near the local airport, Agent Haworth is invited back on the case, and as such he's on hand when the discarded skin of the slain agent is discovered, as well as another skinned body. As the book ends we see Officer Adakai is drawn back into the case when a rather disturbing discovery is made regarding the first body.

Comments:
While it doesn't sound all that convincing saying this after the scene has already played out in the book, I would like to mention that I pretty much expected the little plot twist regarding this story's first victim. In fact I had this scenario typed up & ready to include with my review of the first issue, but I decided to drop it as it was mostly conjecture, and all it really would've done is spoil the surprise for readers who didn't see this little surprise coming. Now part of me is a bit concerned that I can see where the writers are heading before they get there, as I already have this story's climax pretty much envisioned. I mean, we have two lead characters, chasing a killer who can steal others identities, so the natural tension filled finish to this story would likely be to have one of them replaced by the killer, or at least the belief exist that one of them had been replaced by the killer. However given both leads have been developed into fairly engaging characters, I can't deny that even if the story does offer up this conclusion, my attention will be riveted, as it'll likely mean that one of the two has become the killer's latest victim.

This issue picks up where the first issue left off in it's development of its two leads, though I do find myself warming more toward Officer Adakai, as we learn a bit more about her life outside of her job. Plus, Agent Haworth is a rather familiar character type, at least if you’re like myself and have watched dozens of films, and read just as many novels that involved an FBI agent and/or police officer on the trail of a serial killer. Still, both characters are being developed quite nicely, and when the two are interacting with each other, the book is at its most engaging, as we see Agent Haworth manages to unintentionally offer up all sorts of insulting remarks, while Officer Adakai manages to point out why his comments are insulting without coming across as overly sensitive, or even all that offended by what was said. Plus, the little plot twist involving the first victim should nicely set this partnership on it's ear, as the case is no longer what it originally appeared to be. I also expect that Officer Adakai's final page comments are going to have her viewed as a crazy loon by everyone in that room, but Agent Haworth.

The black & white work on this miniseries is a bit different from your typical black & white comic, as it's done up very much like a color title, except that darker & lighter shades of gray are used instead of color. It's very much like the difference between a simple black & white film and a black & white film-noir, as most non-color comics are like the latter in their use of fairly bold use of shadows & light to create an atmosphere, while this comic is like the former in that Ted Turner could come along & colorize it, and the book's fans wouldn't be screaming for his head. Now the book still looks quite nice, as the lack of color does add a nice creepy element to the scenes where characters are poking around in dark places with their flashlights, to discover the skinned bodies, or the discarded skins. The art also does a pretty nice job with the little background details, like the little visual clues that this book is set in a hot climate, with the fan in every room & bottles of water. Now I wish the work were a bit more expressive when it comes to it's facial work, but this is a fairly serious minded story, so this isn't a huge problem.

Final Word:
On one hand I'm a bit concerned by the sense that I can see where this story is going, as the plot twist involving the first body is pretty much what I had been expecting. However, the book is doing a very nice job developing its two leads, and the idea of a killer who can effectively change his identity like one changes clothes is actually being presented in a fairly credible fashion. Oh sure one has to make a fairly big leap to accept the premise as it's laid out, but I suspect next issue is going to feature some resistance to the idea that Officer Adakia has offered up, and it should make for a rather interesting scene where Agent Haworth finds himself accepting the fairly fantastic explanation he's been given, as well as how it relates the murder of his ex-partner. The issue also offers up a fairly engaging character dynamic between the two leads, as while they're both cut from the same cloth, they find themselves at odds due to their inability to see how much alike they are to each other.



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