(WARNING: THIS POST IS FOR A CLASS ON HORROR FICTION. IT WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS ABOUT THE GRAPHIC NOVEL CYCLE OF THE WEREWOLF.)
Stephen King keeps a poetic distance in his graphic novel Cycle of the Werewolf. This was almost hypnotic reading, with regular patterns and introspective insights into character after character’s life. I never felt afraid, disgusted, or even very worried about the people of Tarker’s Mills, but I calmly rode along with the words, enjoying the rhythm of King’s writing and the images that depicted violent events as if they were scenes of lovely art.
This distance that King keeps from his characters left me feeling fairly unsurprised when the identity of the werewolf was revealed. I also failed to feel at the edge of my seat when the beast had – once again – arrived to take a victim. The entire story is told in a predictable pattern: next month will come, someone will likely die, and we will probably not know that character yet at all. We simply see people just before they are about to buy it.
I can’t decide whether I like that or I don’t. If someone described this book to me first, I think I would say that I would rather not read it. If it’s predictable and not well connected to the characters, what’s the point? But, having read it with no prior knowledge of its style, I realize that I don’t feel this way. It was a relaxing read, and the great descriptions were done in a way that was almost calming, if a werewolf story can be considered calming.
The Reverend Lowe’s obsession with who is the true monster intrigued me much more than the actual plot. In several chapters he expressed annoyance with the people of his town that they were uncivilized and beastly in their human behavior. While this is a nice twist on a werewolf, and it suggests a stubbornness and instinct to survive that I imagine anyone – reverend or not – would try to justify, I felt that it lacked some logic.
Why were the Reverend Lowe’s actions not horrific to himself, at least enough for him to seek help or at least properly lock himself up during full moons?
“I am a man of God and I will not kill myself. I do good here, and if I sometimes do evil, why, men have done evil before me; evil also serves the will of God, or so the Book of Job teaches us; if I have been cursed from Outside, then God will bring me down in His time” (111).
Probably I’m way too naïve, but I keep thinking that someone who is so offended by people drinking and staying out late would probably also be horrified by a werewolf. Of course the message here is that Lowe is so righteous that he believes that if he is the werewolf, he is simply serving God. Still, I don’t buy that. Perhaps if he had explored countless ways to cure himself, and at the same time he was actually deeply needed in the town to solve some other major problem(s), I might accept that he legitimizes the experience by saying that God just wants him to be cursed with both the light and the dark in one body. As it is, he just seems crazy, and crazy bad guys often seem like a cheat to me.
That’s a minor issue for me, however. This story is told in a calm, rhythmic, poetic way that lets readers take a step back from Tarker’s Mills instead of being embedded in the town. As readers we stand at a comfortable distance, enjoying the terrible view.
King, Stephen. Cycle of the Werewolf. New York: Signet, 1985.