probably spoilers or something below
by Ales Kot, Matt Taylor & Lee Loghridge
With writer Ales Kot’s post Zero/Marvel career arc in full swing, he’s released a series of strange yet deeply thoughtful comics series and his latest, Wolf with artist Matt Taylor & colorist Lee Loughridge, might be his strangest and most complex debut yet. One part exploration of dark mysticism and one part a mediation on modern Los Angeles, the books first issue is a long form narrative that focuses on character and world building by mashing up the real with the fabled. Wolf takes common mythology from all sorts of places and modernizes it for 2015 in a way that retains the power of those ideas and concepts while firmly grounding it in a world we all know.
Wolf tells the story of a war veteran with the powers of immortality and mental telepathy named Antoine Wolfe. We follow Antoine through a series of misadventures with the police, vampire landlords and a racist billionaires before he collides with a mysterious young girl that could possibly bring about the apocalypse. The character of Antoine Wolfe is an almost perfect metaphor for the books dichotomy, while he has extraordinary abilities, Kot & Taylor make him down to earth and relatable as a modern urban everyman. That’s basically Wolf as concept in and of itself, it grounds the unreal within realism in a way that is charming and fascinating. Antoine’s best friend has a Chtullu head but also wears a hoodie and torn jeans while having landlords that are vampires who go to burning man & play video games. This a strengths of Kot’s that’s fully realized on Wolf, he’s a comics writer that is highly engaged with the world we live in outside of comics or “geek culture” and because of that, he is able to connect elements of the later outwardly in a way that feels fresh and vital. Wolf is equal parts a modern Los Angeles and a magical one because Kot has such a unique and intuitive understanding of both things in equal measure. The character’s and world feel lived in and honest but also fascinating for their complexity and the way they defy conventions. There is a fun side to Wolf in that way, you never know how each side will play off each other and how it will reveal more about it’s world and it’s paid off for in the way it’s elements evolves throughout the story of the first issue.
Artist Matt Taylor does engaging work in both the fantastical and mundane aspects of the plot and setting helping to establish and streamline the books aesthetic. The issue kicks off with Taylor illustrating Antoine singing while he’s engulfed in flames on Mulholland Drive. It’s beautiful in a way that immediately capture the readers attention in arresting details of the protagonist and his environment. It’s a measured work that Taylor does in mixing the ordinary with the surreal, one minute you see them walking through an apartment building util they walk through a door and the dynamic has changed completely. Taylor makes those transitions feel effortless. Colorist Lee Loughridge aids in setting the mood and tone. He uses bright and vibrant primary colors and then contrasts that with more muted tertiary tones. There’s a subtlety to it that gives Wolf and understated feel and aids in it’s core dichotomy.
Here’s the part where I tell you that Kot & co are creating a book like nothing else on the stands but every book Kot writes is like nothing else on the stands so that really doesn’t tell you anything. What’s more interesting here is the how of it and chiefly how he, Taylor, Loughridge & the rest of Wolf’s creative team are exploring a dichotomy between the real and unreal in a way that is equal parts thrilling, charming and fascinating. While it uses elements of horror, noir & detective genre work, it doesn’t adhere to any of it’s conventions. It manages to match the humor & tone of the writers more recent work on Secret Avengers or Dead Drop, but it’s set within a world that is far more rich in it’s details and mystery. The talent of Kot, Taylor, & Loughridge is undeniable in a singular sense just based on their past work alone, but together on Wolf, they’ve come up with something that could only come out of this collaborative effort. That’s because, each of their own unique sensibilities feels fully in sync with one another here and that helps separate Wolf and puts it in it’s own type of stratosphere. Wolf is a mythological world with otherworldly actors that feels strongly like our own and in that way, it might be telling us something.