Upon reverently cracking open the new hardcover graphic novel that reveals the story of Mercy Thompson’s beginnings in the Tri-Cities, the initial reaction was one of gleeful awe. Written as a collaboration between Mercy’s creator, Patricia Briggs, and David Lawrence, it turns out to be a great offering for fans.
In Mercy Thompson: Homecoming, Mercedes arrives in the Tri-Cities to interview for a teaching position. Having been raised by the Marrok, the alpha wolf in charge of all werewolves, she has a bit of a checkered background and is breaking out on her own. In the world Briggs has created, there are vampires, weres, fae… and there is Mercy. Mercy is a “walker”, a creature who changes with ease - in her case, she turns into a coyote from one step to the next. No full moon required. In this prequel, we see the beginning: how she met the characters who become her closest friends and protectors. A vampire who drives a van reminiscent of the Scooby gang Mystery Machine, a fae who becomes her benefactor, and the alpha wolf of the area all play their roles in this story to save Mercy from the trouble that seems to follow her nonstop. Here she manages to plunk herself into the middle of a pack war between two rival were-gangs.
Hand-painted by Francis Tsai and Amelia Woo, the art is something of a disappointment. The font is dramatic, the colors rich and breathtaking. There are some minor annoyances that long-term Mercy fans will pick at. The image of her on the cover depicts her character so inaccurately and differs even from the painting of her on the back cover. She just isn’t drawn to the expected specifications. Instead, she is like Dolly Parton’s baby sister done up as a biker babe - which is obnoxious only because it isn’t Mercy. Even so, much of the art is detailed and vibrant. Some of it has lovely detail - the werewolves are phenomenal, and they could easily steal the show, artistically speaking. The facial details are incredible, from wrinkles to the shapes of noses to sneers. It all adds up to reasonably believable characters.
On the other hand, some bits of art are so ill-conceived that it feels like a bored high school kid’s doodling in the margin of his history notes. Worse, sometimes it’s all in the same page, the clear talent mixed with amateur hour, leaving the reader feeling like the characters suffer from multiple personality disorder. The art is on par with a small independent comic shop or Sunday morning strips, as opposed to what might be expected from the bigger Marvel or D.C. outfits.
Patricia Briggs chose to maintain the integrity of her world in which Mercy and the wolves forgo clothing when they change from human to beast. The result is both admirable and powerful. However, the impact of their nudity is quite different in a visual medium than in text and takes over more than a little bit. Still, for all that, it is exotically authentic for the characters she has created. To have them clothed after a change would have robbed them of the inherent integrity of the Mercy world. It may limit her audience, but the fans should appreciate the motives behind it.
As a bonus, there is a candid interview with the author after the story wraps up, offering her insights on the project. Homecoming will need to be in-home libraries to complete the set, but it won’t draw in as many new fans as perhaps Patricia Briggs might have hoped. As a “graphic novel” it is a disappointment. As a gift to those of us who are hungry for more of the Mercy universe, it is entirely too short to keep us going until the next book comes out.