Review – Wolf #2 (Image Comics)

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Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Ales Kot
Artist: Matt Taylor
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Release Date: 19th August, 2015

Los Angeles… A sun-scorched wasteland, peopled by demons, hurtling towards the end of days. No, that’s not a jibe at the City of botoxed Angels, but the plot of Wolf, a new genre-blending series from Image. To recap for those who didn’t pick up the first double-sized issue, our story is centered on enigmatic protagonist Wolf, a paranormal detective who works as a mediator between supernatural beings and the more humdrum grotesques of California, or as he puts it; “I deal with ghouls, vampires, werewolves, succubi, and wealthy militant racists.” He ends up cutting a deal with power-player Sterling Gibson – a man whose agenda is decidedly murky – in order to get someone close to him out of prison. This arrangement hinges on Wolf’s unparalleled abilities, which allowed him to survive being completely incinerated in the first few panels – and also seem to comprise of a form of clairvoyance that draws on communicating with the dead.

This week’s issue opens with Wolf investigating blood-curdling screams emanating from a vampire landlord’s bathroom, only to find that the issue is a little more sensitive than he’d anticipated. Two words: “lady trouble”. It’s overall a more quiet issue than the striking opening of #1 but this very much works to its advantage, adding more to our understanding of the world and the dark machinations going on behind it’s surface. There are some beautifully understated scenes between Wolf and Anita Christ, who may in fact be the antichrist but is also just a lost 13-year-old, with no-where else to go. She’s as contradictory and unreadable as you’d expect of a girl her age, let alone one whose parents may have attempted to sacrifice her. Meanwhile Wolf – like a true hard-boiled detective – is trying to sift through the confusing fragments of the world around him, assembling larger patterns from each “synchronicity” he experiences. This is one of the reasons that the occult detective trope works so effectively, who better to read the subtle signs of oncoming doom in the minutiae of day-to-day-life than a jaded investigator?

One of my favourite elements of the comic is the way that the setting comes across so strongly, it’s very much as important to the narrative as any of the characters and just as distinctive. LA – a city already defined by its unreality – is the perfect setting for a story focused on myth. It just seems like you’re peeling back the skin of the city to reveal the nastiness crawling underneath. This world doesn’t seem entirely alien, just particularly focused on the unusual details that most people prefer to ignore… like the swirling dead being carried away into the sky by the Santa Ana winds.

This world that Kot and Taylor have built is very reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and I’d be tempted to describe Wolf as magical realism if the apologetic connotations of the term hadn’t already been bemoaned by the man himself (“They call some fantasies ‘Magical Realism’ to try and lend them respectability like a whore who wishes to be known as a lady of the evening.”) There were some suggestions in the first issue that Wolf – like American Gods – shares an interest in the form that mythologies take in modern life, the way that these are forced to adapt and evolve in an ever more hostile habitat. I can’t wait to see how these threads unspool as the series continues. If that sounds a little heavy, then fear not, there are a host of fun details to be enjoyed, like the bizarre vampiric accents, the alliteration-loving Freddy Cthonic – heir to the Old Ones and World’s Best Babysitter, and Wolf’s narration, which ranges from sarky to wonderfully excessive noir. Sharp and engaging as a vampire’s smile, Wolf is series I’ll be sticking around for.

Rating: 4/5.

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The writer of this piece was: Kirsty Hunter
Kirsty Tweets from @kirstythehunter.

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