Thursday, 7 October 2010
Six Things I'd Like To See Happen In "Age Of The Wolf"
I'd like to see Rowan develop more of a substantial and individual personality. It's laudable and brave to create and present a lead character who, beyond an untypical degree of skill on a motorbike, is as everyday and unremarkable as most of us out here in the real world are. But Rowan is so very, very average that she's very, very uninteresting, and giving her magical powers doesn't of itself make her any more compelling a character. She's passive unless she's forced to act, she seems to lack an interior life, she has no apparent desires or ambitions, and she's not spoken a single witty line or expressed one out-of-the-ordinary idea in the six chapters we've known her. As a consequence, it's particularly difficult to empathise with her character or sympathise with her situation.
I like to see the individual chapters of "Age Of The Wolf" constructed so that there's a more substantial change of mood both within them and between them. At the moment, disaster follows disaster without any intervening change of pace or mood except for the fact that events keep becoming bleaker and more destructive. In truth, there's only two types of scenes that we've seen in the 30 or so pages that've been printed so far. In the first, Rowan doesn't understand what's happening to her, and she's passive. She might be confused or upset, comforting a friend, talking to a stranger or weeping before her dead mother, but she's essentially an uninspiring bystander. In the second, she's running away from wolves or running towards an island, which at least is an active business, but it's not an inspiring one, because there's a limit to how interesting a chasing wolf can be when it can't ever win, or a beckoning island when we've little idea of what's waiting there.
I'd like to see moments of humour as well as those of terror, respite and reflection as well as escalation and fear, victory as well as defeat, and, particularly, some moments of light to break up all that darkness.
I'd like to see "Age Of The Wolf" evolve away from being the comic book equivalent of a chase movie. For there's a sense that the reader is simply watching a woman running away from a wolf towards an island, and there's little to make us think that Rowan won't survive the pursuit, give or take a hand or two. After all, there's a limit to how many times a big wolf can be thwarted before the wolf itself seems like an embarrassment rather than a menace, and after 6 episodes, the business of always running and yet somehow never being caught has become rather wearing.
If Rowan would benefit from being fleshed out and made more interesting, then the tale as a whole could do with a supporting cast beyond the similarly flat Pete. The brief appearance of Rowan's whinging, deceased Mother provided some other focus of attention, though it can hardly be said that she was a character so captivating that the readership might long to see her again. She was, in truth and I believe by intent, thoroughly irritating, and it's to be hoped that the big bad baddie of this tale isn't just effectively a self-involved and uncaring middle-class sitcom mother.
And given that all we have to represent the forces of disorder are Rowan's mum and a mute and conspicuously ineffective wolf, the introduction of some more compelling antagonists would greatly excite the interest, just as Rowan as a heroine would benefit from some friends and allies who were more engaging than the one-note, London-Eye-climbing Pete.
This has been an end of the world story where so few people are on show that the battle seems already lost. It would very much help to get a sense that life beyond Rowan and Pete is still extant and, in particular, worth worrying about. The little we've seen of the survivors so far has left them seeming both emasculated and unworthy of making it through this catastrophe, which is a shame, because if we can't care for the mass of the victims in a tragedy, we can't care for their world or the possibility that it might one day be restored.
It would very much help this reader if each individual chapter of "Age Of The Wolf" was constructed in a way that was more deliberately calculated to compel the audience's attention. For example, the key final panels on each page in Chapter 6 are remarkably uninvolving and unenticing. The trick of an effective page turner, of course, is that it presents an enigma of some sort within the context of a scene that's interesting in itself. But consider, for example, the final panel of page one, where we're shown two faces looking fearful, but we're not provided with any clue about what they're frightened about. Two frightened people in an already fraught situation doesn't constitute an enigma so much as business as usual, and that panel required more than that to inspire the reader to turn the page with some alacrity.
Page five, for one, does at least end on a genuine enigma, but it's a mystery that's diluted by the fact that the reader can have no idea what's happening. Blood seems to be causing flowers to grow, but is it the blood from the wolf's mouth or from Rowan's stump that's doing this? And why might we be interested in flowers growing from blood, when we've been given not a hint of why this might be important? It's as if we're supposed to be fascinated in a strange phenomena simply because it's strange, but the reader needs more information in order to care about the likes of fast-growing flowers, because, in themselves, they're just not that interesting a chapter-closing incident.