Marvel’s taking us back to 1872, to an American frontier boomtown called Timely that “has more than its share of scoundrels, and [one that will need] a hero to keep them in line. A hero named Red Wolf.”
Is it good?
Red Wolf #1 (Marvel Comics)
From the get-go, loving the antiquarian look of the introductory page. Subtle little touch that has me hankerin’ for some Wild West action.
The opening sequence is a captivating, yet cryptic one: A dust storm brews on the malpais. Lightning cracks the orange-red sky. A Native woman (that we later learn is Red Wolf’s mother) spies something strange from the bushes: a shadow-shrouded cowboy in a Stetson flatbrim and matching duster strolling away from a glowing mine shaft; he crackles with energy — the same glacier-green color as whatever’s coming from the mine shaft.
Something tells me he’s not mining for coal in there.
We’re then introduced to our main character, Red Wolf, in equally impressive form. Red Wolf is a man that speaks softly (and tersely) but carries a big ass hunting knife. He settles a dispute some outlaws are having over cattle — by whupping their asses. It’s not his fault, of course; he tries settling matters in diplomatic fashion — but when all a sheriff gets for his admonitions are “You’re not my sheriff,” and “This is between me and [him] injun, so back off,” well… a man’s gotta do.
Writer Nathan Edmondson gives us a good glimpse at Red Wolf’s grounded, but impressive physical prowess in addition to his demeanor; he wrangles a stampeding cattle, backhands the teeth from a poor sap’s mouth and flings a knife into someone’s deltoid with expert accuracy all in the span of a few panels. Will we see any hints of mysticism incorporated into his skillset? Hopefully, but if Edmondson is going the slow-burn route in that regard, I’m cool with it.
The art team of Dalabor Talajic (pencils), Jose Marzan Jr. (inks) and Miroslav Mrva (colors) combine to make Red Wolf #1 a visual force. Though the characters themselves seem ostensibly simple, they are visually distinct, full of expression and replete with clothing and gear authentic to the time period. It’s clear a lot of research and planning went into the book’s presentation, from fringed buckskin pants to six-shooters to unruly handlebar mustaches and it helps to immerse us in the time.
Much like a good Western novel, the story’s surroundings and landscapes too are characters all their own; from roiling black storm clouds to flat-topped mesas to scrub pines to hammering rain — the team imbues each with a sense of realism and befitting ambiance. Mrva also punctuates select panels with excellent use of white space that gift the narrative with a dream-like quality; that portend perhaps that Red Wolf’s time period is being disturbed by something incongruously preternatural.
Excellent atmosphere and panel arrangement here.
Which brings us to the book’s villain, the mysterious cowboy that we see trudging from the mine in the book’s opening sequence. Although he is a time traveller, Edmondson introduces him in thrilling fashion. He is a parachronism, but one that adheres to the word’s meaning (“anything that appears in a time period in which it is not normally found, though not sufficiently out of place as to be impossible”) enough to maintain the issue’s tension; Edmondson doles out flashes of his power throughout the narrative and we are left to wonder, just like Timely’s townsfolk, what the hell is going on until a full-on assault near issue’s end. His dialogue might not stray too far outside of stereotypical supercilious fare and he throws around the word “primitives” and “manifest destiny” in a way that’s unabashedly there to make you hate him — but he’s a well-crafted and imposing character nonetheless.
Although there’s plenty to digest in this first issue, there are still plenty of questions to be answered: How was Red Wolf made sheriff? (I know the introduction sheds some light on this, but more detail would be nice for new readers.) What are the villain’s motives? What is the history behind the town of Timely? All questions that will surely be answered and for which the seeds have been planted. I’m definitely sticking with this title to see all the answers.
Is It Good?
An excellent first issue that features a fascinating, well-designed cast of characters, outstanding visuals and a thoroughly engrossing narrative. Red Wolf is one of the strongest showings from the All-New, All-Different Marvel movement and a must-have for anyone with even a fleeting interest in the Western genre.