• Alabaster: Pale Horse

    Released by: Dark Horse Comics
    Released on: February 12, 2014

    Authored by Caitlin R. Kiernan, this collection features more stories around the character of Dancy Flammarion, a teenage albino girl from the Deep South who’s an angel’s instrument of death and destruction.

    This volume collects six stories and nicely randomizes their order to put Dancy first and foremost as the selling point here. The stories are all roughly the same format - Dancy, alone, wanders the highways of the southern U.S., being told where to go and whom to kill by a terrifying angel. Presenting these stories out of order allows us to step immediately into the legend she’s become in the demon/shadow realm and then witness how she came to be.

    Oft times, Dancy is like a floating leaf, at the apparent mercy of whomever she encounters. She’s undersized and, thus, overlooked and underestimated by her opponents and would-be captors. Her angel is a sometimes-companion, leaving her to her own devices most of the time, until it’s killing time. This angel, too, often only gives her partial information on her targets, leaving out key details that only serve to heighten her vulnerability. But whether she’s one-on-one with a particular demon in human form (or in a “suit” of stitched skins) or facing a horde or just on her own Dancy’s aware enough to still be taken seriously.

    The stories collected here are: The Well of Stars and Shadow, Highway 97, Bainbridge, Alabaster, Waycross and Les Fleurs Empoisonnees: or, Dans le Jardin des Fleurs Toxiques. The handy table of contents provides a listing of the stories in order, should you wish to read them that way, which is a nice touch. This edition also contains a lengthy preface as well as a preface to the first edition, with Kiernan able to fill in some additional details. The autobiographical afterword is also a neat informative section that lends more to insights on the author’s writing and background.

    With just a few nightmarish drawings included this is mostly prose which suits Kiernan’s style perfectly. She has such a descriptive touch for the world that Dancy inhabits the elements become nearly palpable: The heat and humidity make you feel sticky, swamps seem murkier than ever before, and all this helps add to the mood of Southern Gothic darkness that is wonderfully consistent between all the differing stories. For fans of new horror and the supernatural this is a series/character not to be missed.