In previous articles, I’ve talked a fair amount about genre mash-ups that take disparate elements and somehow fit them together in a seamless whole. One of the best combinations of genres has been noir and horror and there are plenty brilliant examples of that, especially with creator combinations like Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. The dark elements of horror work well with the grittiness of noir and can create stories that feel like they were meant to be together. And then sometimes, genre mash-ups can go terribly wrong and feel like a monster with a million little pieces jigsawed together by Doctor Frankenstein. It all comes down to the writer’s talent at drawing the pieces together and making the audience believe that it’s real. This week I’ll be taking a look at a noir/horror mash-up that unfortunately doesn’t quite work. The Wolf series, written by Ales Kot and illustrated by Matt Taylor is a Frankenstein monster published by Image Comics in 2015 and comprised of just two volumes so far. It’s a noir and horror mash-up that brings the paranormal and the apocalyptic to Los Angeles when an ex-marine turned PI ends up having to take care of a teen girl whose parents have been horrifically murdered.
The series begins with Antoine Wolfe, a paranormal detective with some rather disturbing gifts of his own, getting hired to take care of a haunting problem for a mobster type named Sterling Gibson. In the process of this investigation, Wolfe gets dragged into helping his friend Freddy (a Lovecraftian tentacled half-human, half-monster) who needs help dealing with his landlord and who provides help to Wolfe in turn. When a teenaged girl named Anita Christ (yes, really) is orphaned during a rather nasty ritual murder, her grandmother’s ghost draws her to Wolfe. Each of these different threads is eventually woven together through the course of the two volumes and Wolfe and Anita must team up to deal with the monsters, both human and otherwise, around them.
If that plot summary didn’t leave you scratching your head, you’re doing way better than me. My previous experience with Ales Kot in the DC series Suicide Squad had left me less than impressed and I’m afraid he didn’t do himself any favors here. For a story that rants non-stop about synchronicity, there are so many unraveling threads in the plotline that it’s a miracle it managed to have any ending at all. The main story is about Wolfe and Anita getting dragged together and trying to figure out all the threads that bind their fates together and yet the first half of the first volume has Wolfe helping his friend Freddy (the one amusing bright spot in the series) deal with the fact that his landlord is raising the rent. Sure, it brings in characters that later become important to the plot but it’s a ham-handed way of doing so that is alternately confusing and boring. Characters constantly just start telling stories that act as exposition instead of putting any work into actually telling the story. Most of which makes absolutely zero sense. The second volume brings in the main villain but even by the end of that volume, I still have no idea what the hell is going on with this series. The ending seems like it’s supposed to be a cliffhanger but since it failed to make me care about any of the characters besides Freddy, I seriously doubt I’ll bother to find out what happens next. Unfortunately, the art isn’t much better than the writing. The linework is rough, simple lines and verges from okay to downright terrible. The only redeeming quality is the colors by Lee Loughridge which do a much better job of making the story vibrant and interesting than either Taylor or Kot could manage.
As you may have already guessed, I was not a fan of this series. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Not because it’s terrible (although it kind of is) but mostly because it’s confusing and the definition of “meh.” It has occult elements that could have been a lot of fun in the hands of a more talented writer but mostly end up leaving the reader between scratching their head and yawning. If you want a fantastic noir/horror blend, I’d highly recommend some of the better options out there like Fatale and The Doom That Came to Gotham. Wolf is eminently skippable.