Despite its subtitle being a terrible pun (which this reviewer took weeks to get…) Cry Havoc is an intelligent, gritty and thoughtful exploration of themes that you might have thought the urban fantasy genre had already trodden to death.
Central character, Lou, is a fierce, blue-haired busker, buffeted by events outside of her control. The book begins with her on one side or another of a barred cage (but which? Captor or captive?) and we follow the events leading up to and from that point, from being mugged by a werewolf, to her emerging lycanthropy to special operations with a team of similarly mythically-charged misfits, on a Heart of Darkness style mission to track down a rogue mythic.
If that plot sounds confusing, then we should warn you, we’ve only scratched the surface. But throughout, the complex plot, packed with interesting new ideas on the theme of shapeshifting, parallel realities and lycanthropy, is deftly handled and well-paced, leaking just enough new details to keep you reeling, giddy and breathless without getting lost.
Cry Havoc has honesty in its depiction of grime, sexuality and hipster-ridden Britain (well…central London, anyway), rooting the plot in a recognisable everyday, before taking off into the more fantastical. And the fantastical is pretty densely realized too. Spurrier and Kelly have clearly done their research into the varieties of mythic monsters around the world, not settling for just werewolves (or barghest) and vampires (we didn’t notice any, not in the conventional sense). Nearly every mythic we encounter has their own unique look, qualities and powers.
Throughout it has a dry and dark sense of humour and a fundamentally good heart. There is plenty of gore and nudity but, by and large, it doesn’t feel gratuitous. In fact it would have felt more insincere if the sheer volume of blood and guts shed had been hidden from us.
If there are moments when Cry Havoc thinks it is cleverer than it really is, it is also far more thoughtful and immaculately plotted than you could ask for, from what promises to be a highly original and inspiring series. The fact that we struggle to imagine where it could go from here is only a good sign. This reviewer has every faith in you, Cry Havoc. Just make your next subtitle a pun I can get in less than a week.
There are moments, particularly towards the end, where the sheer volume of ideas creates a dense and slightly confusing porridge. However, the sheer strength of characterisation carries the reader through any technobabble and any plot points missed just encourage what we suspect would be an extremely satisfying second (or third or fourth…) reading.
CRY HAVOC, VOL. 1: MYTHING IN ACTION / AUTHOR: SIMON SPURRIER / ARTIST: RYAN KELLY, NICK FILARDI, LEE LOUGHRIDGE / PUBLISHER: IMAGE COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW