Blending classic horror beats with modern detective and crime comics, Tracker is a unique take on the well-worn werewolf story. But can a unique premise alone lead to a great comic? Read ahead and find out!
A Classic Horror Staple With A Modern Twist
Tracker is a horror tale written by Jonathan Lincoln with art duties being shared by Francis Tsai, Derec Donavan and Abhushek Malsuni. The story centers on an FBI agent named Alex O’Roark who gets transformed into a werewolf while hunting down a serial killer named Herod.
O’Roark now must keep his transformations and abilities a secret from his loving girlfriend and co-workers. In constant pain and slowly losing his grip on his personal and professional life, O’Roark desperately needs to catch the serial killer who infected him after he learns that the killer holds the key to his cure.
A Unique Tale Told Inconsistently
After the success of the Walking Dead and Twilight, readers have become entranced by modern twists on classic horror characters. Tracker follows this trend by placing the world of werewolves against the backdrop of an urban cop drama. The result is a book that reads like part NYPD Blue, part X-Files and part Wolfman. Despite the unique premise and blending of genres, Tracker never quite finds a consistent voice from issue to issue.
Tracker starts off with a bevy of brutality and mystery that makes it hard to put the book down. Scenes involving the main character, Alex O’Roark, struggling with violent memories and transformations hearken back to the classic anti-heroes of the horror genre. Shades of Lon Chaney’s Wolfman begin to echo as Alex’s dilemma affects him both personally and professionally. His pain is expressed well at the beginning and it’s easy to sympathize with him.
However, after the promising start that the book gets off to, it quickly unravels. The first half delivers both great horror moments and detective work simultaneously and it meshes well together. Unfortunately, Tracker then delivers a generic third act laden with explosions and obvious twists that don’t live up to the story’s unique beginning. The book loses focus on Alex’s struggles and after a while his werewolf transformations seem to be more of an afterthought than a main problem. Plot points and conflicts go unresolved while the story degenerates into multiple fight scenes that don’t carry the same weight that the first half did. What Lincoln tried to do was admirable, but there are too many genres shoehorned together at once and he never seemed to find a way to have them all coexist consistently for the full length of the book.
Multiple Artists Ruin The Tone
One of the most egregious sins in comics (and a personal pet peeve) is committed twice in Tracker. And that sin is *drum roll please* Multiple artists. Multiple artists on one story arc is the quickest way to guarantee rushed work, unrecognizable characters and radical tone shifts. Tracker suffers from all three of these in spades.
The first three issues are illustrated quite admirably by Francis Tsai. The brutality of his werewolf scenes and the violent energy he conveys all match the story perfectly. Tsai does a fantastic job of leaving much of the werewolf attacks up to the reader’s imagination as they view the aftermath of each bloody conflict. Horror always works best when the curtain is never completely pulled back and Tsai knows this.
After three issues of beautifully rendered brutality, Tsai is suddenly gone and in his place is Derec Donavan. Donavan comes in and injects a brightly colored, anime style to the book that causes a massive shift in visual tone. Because the visual change is so radical, it seems that Jonathan Lincoln even changed his writing approach to suit the new artist. In Donavan’s issue, the writing is a lot more lighthearted and whatever horror influence the book had in the beginning is gone. Blood and gore is replaced with cartoonish eyes, bright colors and broader characterizations.
After Donavan’s issue, yet another artist takes the helm. This time it is Abhishek Malsuni taking the artistic reigns and while the results are better than Donavan’s art, Malsuni’s art is wildly inconsistent. Malsuni tries for a photorealistic look (think Mike Deodato) but most of the time his character models suffer from skewed perspectives and stiff facial expressions. However, there are panels when you can see potential in Malsuni’s art and maybe if more time was allotted to him the results could have been better.
BOTTOM LINE: Only For The Diehards
There just isn’t enough positive about Tracker to fully recommend it anyone unless you are a ravenous werewolf aficionado. The first three issues showed flashes of brilliance, but the last two are so wildly inconsistent that it’s best left on the shelf. I really wish the original creative team had stayed on for the whole run because I think this could have been a great little read. However, the business of comics sometimes doesn’t allow for that to happen.