Graphic Novel Review: Supernatural: The Dogs of Edinburgh
10:23 11 October 2012
AS a long-term fan of the Supernatural TV show, I’ve always been aware of the graphic novel spin-offs, but for one reason or another hadn’t sampled them, perhaps cautious after being burned by too many sub-par comics versions of popular films and series in the past.
With Brian Wood, writer of Vikings anthology Northlanders and assorted X-Men books, handling the script, I was quietly optimistic about this latest release, even though I hadn’t seen much work from artist Grant Bond.
One of my biggest dreads in reading US comics is when the protagonists visit the UK, as they inevitably end up ticking a checklist of clichés including the likes of cobbled streets, pea souper fogs, caped bobbies and Victorian ruffians, as lazy artists can’t be bothered to do even the vaguest amount of research into where they are drawing.
By taking the assuredly American protagonists of Supernatural, brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, to Edinburgh and the Scottish coast was a risk by Wood which Bond might have failed to deliver, but as it is he does an acceptable job with the scenery which certainly doesn’t jar, although he fails to capture the likenesses of actors Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles whatsoever.
The story itself draws on elements of Celtic folklore, specifically the myth of the kelpie, but also serves to provide hitherto unseen details about Sam’s college life, before he was a dedicated hunter and was instead studying at Stanford.
The first half of the book takes the younger Winchester to Edinburgh on a study break, only for him to become caught up with the mysterious and alluring Emma of the Isles, fighting monsters on council estates and forging a bond which lasts for years, prompting his subsequent return to Scotland to answer her plea for help.
One of the strengths of Supernatural is the interplay between Sam and Dean, and for obvious reasons this is lacking for the majority of the book, with the less interesting Sam struggling to keep the narrative interesting due to his somewhat bland personality. It’s only when Dean arrives that things pick up, but in many ways it’s a case of too little, too late.
The TV series is an exploration of the dark side of American culture, the urban legends and ancient myths which have shaped the US nation, and the Winchesters are firmly rooted in that world. Taking them out of their comfort zone should therefore make for a fascinating juxtaposition to the TV stories, but perhaps because of the structure of this particular tale, it just doesn’t work here and loses much of what makes the series so exceptional.
Something of a disappointment then, but not a total failure, and worthy of investigation if you’re looking for an extra hit of Supernatural before the new series starts on TV.