In her novels based on Mercedes (Mercy) Thompson, Patricia Briggs has created a world where the fae, werewolves and vampires are a part of the everyday fabric of Washington state. Mercy herself is an intriguing character. As an American Indian who is able to shape shift into a coyote, Thompson, who was raised by the Marrock (the alpha-male werewolf of the Northwest), is always involved in the goings on of the supernatural world.
In the books, Mercy’s world is established and relationships have already been defined, however, one who reads these books tends to wonder: Just who are all these characters and how did they become involved with each other? Most of all, in a world where everything is not as it seems, how can these people trust each other? That’s where “Mercy Thompson: Homecoming” comes in, a prequel where new readers can get involved with the novels and longtime fans see a fresh perspective on long-established characters.
We first meet Mercy running for her life and being cornered by a pack of werewolves. Along the way, she shape shifts from coyote back into human form, all while trying to figure out some sort of escape plan. She need not have worried, because the cavalry comes in when she’s about to be torn to pieces. Her cry of “When the Marrock comes looking for me…tell him I went down fighting!” brings in Adam and his crew to rescue her. And that’s only in the first eight pages. From there, the action doesn’t stop as we find out Adam is the alpha male in the area where Mercy is trying to get a job as a teacher. Yes, our heroine is no slacker in the intelligence department – tired of working for fast-food joints, she decides to put her degree to use, but to no avail. After her adventures with the rogue wolf pack, Mercy encounters a 9-year-old repair whiz that leads her into interacting with the vampire community, in particular Stefan, who has a penchant for Scooby-Doo. (Ladies and gentlemen, his van is made to look exactly like the Mystery Machine.) Luckily, that’s where the similarities end, as Stefan becomes a trusted friend and ally who helps Mercy out of a couple of scrapes.
The dialogue is witty, and the characters are smart and independent yet damaged individuals who are complex and multilayered. Briggs and co-writer David Lawrence have given us a glimpse into a world where you have an emotional investment in their lives. The storyline of the rogue wolf pack and the war over territory shows us the emotional baggage of the characters in this trade paperback. The fae, who owns the auto-repair shop (Zee) is an alcoholic with a 9-year-old son. It’s constantly brought up that humans should not interact with those of the other world. Yet we have Mercy, who is able to have a multifaceted perspective because she was raised by a pack of wolves. The paradoxes constantly abound, and that makes these characters even more interesting.
That said, this is a minicomic series, and without the artwork of Francis Tsai, Amelia Woo, et al., many of the scenes that cause you to keep reading would have been flat on the page. Mercy’s tattoos are consistent, and it’s difficult enough to do that on a human being, much less someone who repeatedly changes into an animal and back again throughout a comic series. Then there is the world that readers have only imagined in their minds. Mercy, Adam, Zee, etc., have been constructed for years in the imaginations of readers, and now they are on the page in full color. Zee has to look like a gremlin, and he does. Adam and his second are definitely leaders, and each panel portrays that. Then there is Mercy with her arrogance, self-doubt and cynicism, which is often expressed by the look on her face. In a comic, these emotions have to be translated to the audience quickly, whereas in a novel, Briggs has the room to ruminate over Mercy’s reaction to a situation. Here, it works.
At the end of the trade, Lawrence interviews Briggs on how this origin of Mercy in comic-book form came to be. It’s refreshing to read from the author her influences and her favorite comics growing up. It also explains the world she created and how it is so well-suited for the comic genre. Overall, you will be hard-pressed to put this rich and compelling narrative down.
In 2010, Briggs’ latest installment of the Mercy Thompson legacy will be in stores. If anything, read this first to gain a sense of what you’re getting into. It will be worth the ride.