So here we are, getting some more snow. I guess this would be a perfect opportunity to take a look at a Winter-themed story. Time to dig out my copy of Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars, an action / horror extravaganza written by Beau Smith, with artwork by Enrique Villagran, published by IDW.
Wynonna Earp made her debut at Image Comics back in 1997. She is the creation of Beau Smith, sometimes known as “the manliest man in comics.” I first discovered Beau’s work during his two year run writing Guy Gardner: Warrior. Before this, I’d never really liked the former Green Lantern. I think that too many writers, in trying to make him as different as possible from Hal Jordan, made Guy a major jerk who acted like a moron with a short fuse. Beau transformed Guy into a tough but likable hero, a gruff, no-nonsense figure who backed up his big talk with genuine guts & courage. And I really enjoyed the supporting cast Beau gave Guy.
Back when the first Wynonna Earp series came out, it unfortunately slipped under my radar. I was probably buying too much other stuff at the time. The character finally came to my attention a decade later in late 2010, when IDW released The Yeti Wars as both a graphic novel and a miniseries.
Wynonna Earp is a supernatural action series about the beautiful, tough-as-nails descendent of Wyatt Earp. As a member of the US Marshals Black Badge Division, Wynonna Earp ropes in all manner of supernatural criminals and horrific monsters, all while keeping a biting wit.
The Yeti Wars sees Earp and her associates in the US Marshalls tracking down Dr. Billy Joe Robidoux, a brilliant but twisted genetic engineer, a Frankenstein from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. After the Black Badge Division raid Robidoux’s lab in California, the not-so-good doctor flees to the snowy wilderness of Alaska with the help of the supernatural crime cartel known as the Immortalis Consortium. Bringing in the US Marshalls’ rough & tough ordinance specialist Smitty, the Black Badge Division head north in pursuit of their mad scientist quarry. They soon discover that the immortal agents of the Consortium have a very special, savage line of defense: a pack of large, ferocious, hungry Yeti. Wynonna calls in reinforcements, namely North America’s answer to the Abominable Snowmen, a tribe of Sasquatches in the Marshalls’ employ. Soon it is all out war as Yeti versus Bigfoot, human versus immortal, and Wynonna slices & dices her way through the bad guys with an alien sword.
As you can no doubt discern from the above summary, Beau Smith writes Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars with a rather tongue-in-cheek manner. That is not to say The Yeti Wars is silly; rather, Smith writes a serious story while effectively imbuing it with plenty of humor. I think that is one of the major problems with both Marvel and DC nowadays, a lack of a real sense of fun. Most of the editors at the Big Two seem to be under the impression that fun equals stupid, which is totally not the case. Just look at the Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies. Those are serious stories, but Lucas, Spielberg and their collaborators always infused the dialogue and situations with a fair amount of wit and comedy. Likewise, Smith recognizes that you can write a serious comic book and still have a lot of fun with it. That was one of the qualities he brought to Guy Gardner, and it is likewise a significant aspect of Wynonna Earp.
Beau Smith actually includes a very thinly veiled fictional version of himself via Smitty. Ordinarily that might be a recipe for disaster. But Smith brings quite a bit of self-deprecating humor to his comic book counterpart, making for a fun, engaging character who, like his creator, does not seem to take himself or anything else too seriously. The chemistry between the relatively young Wynonna and the middle aged Smitty is fantastic, with a lot of smart-ass banter about sex, booze and guns. But underneath it all is a clear mutual respect between two professionals who pride themselves on their work while recognizing the weird, ridiculous aspects of the situations in which they often find themselves.
Argentine artist Enrique Villagran does superb work on The Yeti Wars. As I understand it, Villagran has had a lengthy career, although most of his work has been published outside of the United States. He did some work in the late 1980s for independent publishers Now and Eclipse, as well a few jobs at DC and Marvel in the 1990s. Villagran has a very European style to his work. It reminds me a bit of Jordi Bernet.
One of the qualities I liked about Villagran’s art on The Yeti Wars is that he brought a very natural beauty to Wynonna Earp. In some earlier appearances, I think that the character was perhaps drawn as a bit too much of a pin-up girl or a porn star. Wynonna, as rendered by Villagran, is certainly a very attractive woman, but at the same time she is also a tough, athletic figure. You can really see her having the strength & stamina to go toe-to-toe with all manner of supernatural, inhuman lawbreakers.
I’m also glad that Villagran actually drew Wynonna in sensible clothing. Yeah, alright, if she’s tracking inhuman felons across the Southwestern US, maybe leather pants and a tank top aren’t too impractical. But is you’re brawling with Yeti in the sub-zero backwoods of Alaska, something a little warmer is probably a good idea.
One other reason why I picked this one up: I have a yeti at home. Well, okay, I actually have a cat named Nettie. But she is a long-haired Himalayan who at times has a more than passing resemblance to an abominable snowman. Michele and I are convinced that she must have one or more yeti in her family tree. We sometimes refer to her as “Nettie the Yeti” or “The Abominable Snowkitten,” and believe me when I say that she often lives up to those nicknames!
IDW still has Wynonna Earp: The Yeti Wars available through their website. They previously released The Complete Wynonna Earp in 2005, which collected the earlier material. That one is out of print, but I am sure there are copies floating around somewhere. It’s a fun series, and I recommend checking it out. And I hope Beau has the opportunity to return to writing Wynonna and the Black Badge Division’s adventures in the near future.