Do you miss Angel? You remember it, right? The Buffy spinoff where the hunky vampire-with-a-soul was a PI who worked cases involving mystical creatures? Well, there’s a new comic book series that’s similar in concept but with a few different twists.
Wolf #1 starts with a man who’s been set on fire, walking down the street singing the blues. It’s a great weird opening. The reader’s not sure if dude-en-fuego is screaming in pain or just belting out a Robert Johnson tune at the top of his lungs. Either way, he doesn’t quite seem to be worried. Probably because he knows this won’t kill him.
Written by Ales Kot with art by Matt Taylor and Lee Loughridge, Wolf leans heavily on well-worn story beats from the hardboiled/noir detective genre. So, yes, lead character Antoine Wolfe has a contentious relationship with the cops, gets stuffed in a trunk after being sucker punched, and receives mysterious wisdom from a person living on fringes of society. That last bit is where Wolf starts to differentiate itself. Private eyes tend to live and do business in the limbo between respectable society and its shady counterpart, helping folks bargain their way from one to the other. Wolf digs a little deeper into this conceit, with a man character who straddles the border of life and undeath.
Noir genre conventions call for a protagonist who’s haunted. Here, Wolfe is constantly accompanied by the presence of dead squadmates from his time in the military. At least it seems that way, anyway. Kot plays around with the ideas of myth and perception in the series’ oversized first issue, and does so to good effect. It’s clear that Wolfe has a fearsome, shadow-tinged reputation, which he either downplays or wields like a weapon depending on his needs.
He can take and throw punches, and do subtler things when the need arises, too. The blazer-wearing guy in the panels below was just using mojo on an old later to lift some cash from her wallet...
The man who had Wolfe stuffed into a trunk and brought to his house has his own very special needs. Needs that involve a deceased woman killed by his racist would-be client.
Getting involved in the schemes of a rich, old bigot isn’t the only drama Wolfe gets caught up in. A teen girl also seeks him out, after having loved ones slaughtered before her eyes. PIs always float between the poles of innocence and depravity and it’s pretty clear that, barring a twist down the line, she represents the latter. Wolf also has fun with the “best buddy” hanger-on archetype that’s always part of these kinds of stories, giving us a Cthulu hipster that needs the title character’s special brand of help.
Aside from Angel, I was reminded me a bit of Walter Mosley’s private investigators Socrates Fortlow and Fearless Jones when I was reading Wolf. Kot’s putting together a necromantically dank version of the City of Angels and seems to be ready to rub the town’s legacy of mythmaking against actual creatures of legend. There will be more fire and more bodies, to be sure, and it’ll be interesting to see what Wolfe has left to lose and just how much he needs to redeem himself.
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