Someone – or rather, something – Fae and evil is stealing pieces of human faces, leaving them in comas. MacKayla Lane, AKA Mac, must stop the mysterious monster before it collects thirteen faces, at which point the victims will die. I’ve never read Karen Marie Moning’s Fever books, so my impressions of Fever Moon are based exclusively on this graphic novel set in the Fever universe. For me, it was a solid quick urban fantasy plot, but I wasn’t invested strongly enough in the characters to care deeply about their outcomes. Additionally, I thought the visual element of the graphic novel was unsuccessful and even misogynist. If you are a fan of the series, you may have a totally different reaction, but this graphic novel didn’t work for me.
The story is fine. Tensions begin with mysterious attacks. The stakes are raised when the monster targets people close to Mac. Mac races around Dublin shaking down characters from the series for clues about the nature of the monster and how to stop it. There are bloody fight scenes, and finally the monster is defeated. In between, Mac and hunky supernatural Barrons have sexual tension (since this story is part of an ongoing series, there is no resolution of this relationship, and since the genre is urban fantasy, the action, not the relationship, is the core of the story).
While I did get to know Mac, aided by the prologue and the “voice-over” text boxes which told the story from her first-person perspective, I felt that the relationships among the characters lacked intensity. The author relied too heavily on me bringing in feelings and backstory from previous installments of the series. I couldn’t be as moved as a longtime fan by the monster targeting Mac’s friend Dani because I had only met Dani a few pages before. A few panels explaining that Dani had saved Mac in a previous story can’t possibly give the same intensity of having experienced that in a full novel. Knowing that this was a supplemental graphic novel rather than one of the core works in the series also took away some of the tension of Dani being targeted, since I knew the author wouldn’t kill her off in a side story.
As a short story in an anthology, Fever Moon would have worked reasonably well. As a graphic novel, though, it has serious shortcomings which stem from its translation into visual storytelling.
At times, making the story visual detracted from the plot. Mac can’t figure out the monster’s power and method of attack until the last few pages of the book, but because of the way the monster’s attack is illustrated, I could tell how he struck from the very first encounter. For a long time, I thought that the characters attacked by the monster were dead, not comatose – it wasn’t clear from the image, and there was no text to clear things up. Barrons has the ability to shapeshift but becomes naked when he does; layouts composed to conceal his genitals sometimes look forced or silly. (The use of a long knife to cover up the erection of a Fae summoned by Mac is funny, though, and supposed to be.)
From the moment you open the book, it is obvious that the artists, Al Rio and Cliff Richards,have backgrounds as DC and Marvel superhero artists. The opening shot is of the glamorous blonde Mac wearing extremely slinky black pants, a low-cut tank top, and high-heeled boots, standing on a balcony edge overlooking a war-torn skyline. Give her headgear and a mask, and you could be reading Batgirl or Catwoman. The first time someone called Mac “Ms. Lane,” I nearly thought this was an alternate reality of Superman in which Lois was blonde (especially since Barrons looks like a swarthier version of Clark Kent, albeit one who is living on Bruce Wayne’s budget.) When I read Superman, I don’t mind the classic “capes” visuals (saturated colors, lack of white space, diagonal views, etc) – it’s a hallmark of that particular series. Seeing that style copied over to Fever Moon, though, just felt unoriginal. I wanted the world to have its own look.
The art is also expected and cliche in another, more irritating way: the female characters are sexually objectified. From the short prologue introducing Mac, I got the impression that she is supposed to be a glamazon. I will therefore try to give the artists a pass on hair with its own wind machine, boobs exploding out of tops, belly-baring outfits, skintight pants or miniskirts, and compositional angles which constantly emphasize hips, legs, butt, cleavage, etc. However, I found it very problematic when Mac looked like an orgasmic porn star in a flashback to her gang rape. I know that the Fae have powers to force physical pleasure on partners, but the illustration doesn’t even attempt to capture the complexity of Mac’s experience. It just titillates and leaves you to read the text boxes if you want any details.
I also can’t and won’t excuse this “look” extending past Mac. I believe I counted two females in the entire graphic novel who are not gorgeous, busty, and thin. One is pre-pubescent and one is post-menopausal. The barely-clothed or naked humans writhing around with monstrous Fae at a sex club are exclusively female, including, inexplicably, the one being mauled by a Gray Woman, a type of Fae which preys on men. I was disturbed to realize that Mac’s friend Dani, with killer cheekbones, lush tumbles of wavy red hair, and significant breasts, is supposed to be about thirteen. She looks like a college student at least. Yes, the supernatural men have unattainable eight-pack beefcake bodies, but they’re not human. As for the human men, the normal-physiqued police inspector gets to keep his clothes on, three victims of the monster are older men, and background men can be ordinary in appearance.
If you’re a fan of the Fever series, your mileage may vary. As I said, the plot is interesting, and it may be fun to have an extra trip into a world you love, even if it’s a flawed trip. You may be more irritated than I was if the characters and settings don’t match your expectations; you may be less irritated if there are things I don’t know that justify the art. As a beginner and a graphic novel fan, though, I can only review it based on my own experience, and it didn’t work.