Of Pacing and Design Variety
Wurr is one of the better canine comics I’ve read on the internet, but it is far from the pinnacle of perfection that fans play it up to be. While I cannot argue the quality of the artwork- every design is beautifully detailed and consistent- I feel like there is a criminal lack of variety in the base designs. Yes, every character has a unique silhouette, but pretty much all of the main hellhound cast have a wolf design base. They are hellhounds, not hellwolves, and I feel that an opportunity was missed here to explore the potential mutations of the already wildly diverse canine anatomy. Of course, art should always take second priority to the story, so let's examine that. The first few pages are a prologue that serves as an expository dump of backstory. Then the main story starts; it centers around a pack of about six hellhounds who are being evicted from their territory by a rival pack. The first fifty pages or so are devoted to this plot point, which is used to introduce the characters and help inform the audience about how the society in the crater works. However, this is not done as completely as it could be. Certain concepts- such as being “deepblooded” or a “whispering one” are mentioned, but not explained in context. Instead they are elaborated on in the artist comments. World building should be done in the story. The idea of being deepblood is first brought up on page 26, but it isn’t until page 151 that anyone in the cast bothers to explain exactly what it means. This brings me to what is ultimately Wurr’s biggest issue; the pacing. The first arc, the pack’s eviction, was resolved after sixty-two pages, and now nearly ninety pages later no clear plot has risen up to take its place. A new character was introduced who, so far, only seems to exist to dump exposition, and otherwise just plays peanut gallery while the hellhounds do hellhound things that have nothing to do with him. Two distinct groups of antagonists have appeared, but the motives of one are shallow and the other are annoyingly vague. By now I should have some clue what the over-arcing plot is, but I do not. The comic has recently celebrated its five year anniversary, but with five years and 151 pages under its belt, the fact that there is currently no clear arc to the events of the story makes this milestone nothing to celebrate.
Xenofiction fans and authors, take note.
This is just a great comic. The art is wonderful, the world building is excellent, the characters are convincing, and it's clear that the creator did her homework with researching animals. That research is implemented in beautifully subtle ways, often through the character's body language (which reads consistently as canine. Tails, ears, and posture are all used to their full extent, and there's so many great moments where you can read someone's thoughts, emotions, and relationships just by looking at how they hold themselves) and I never felt like my imagination was asked to make unreasonable leaps. The characters are all interesting while still remaining canine, and everyone feels like they have something to contribute to the story, with depths that are waiting to be visited on. World building, as said before, is excellent, and as with the character's canine behavior the artist does an amazing job of showing instead of telling. The prologue managed to hook my interest right away, and I actually went digging through the creator comments and looking at concept work to get a better idea of the world. I hope that all these little notes work their way fully into the story, as everything is well thought out, from side characters to currency systems. It says a lot when my only critique is a feminist one, instead of anything in the actual comic. Unfortunately, it is outright impossible for Wurr to pass the Bechdel Test right now. And while Surama is an interesting character, I find myself wishing that we had a few more girls to round out a well written, but largely male cast. Readers who like gender equality and representation may be disappointed at first, and even though the imbalance is never really shoved in our faces, it's still lurking around the corner. This is still a minor complaint in the face of an amazingly well crafted story. If you like animals or fantasy comics, go read it. It will be time well spent.