Comics has a long history of producing writers only capable of writing variations on one story. Ales Kot, early in his career, seems to have stumbled into this lot. Wolf #1 shows a lot of ambition, but never really comes together until the very last page. Even then, you might not find enough to come running back for.
Wolf #1 is a story about an immortal detective who gets set on fire and finds himself running afoul of racists, profiteers, Lovecraft monsters who love coffee, and a little girl who might be the key to the universe. It’s got enough quirk to keep you going on the quirk factor alone. But, as Kot tends to do, all of these elements never quite amount to a story. This is a first issue, so he gets a lot of benefit of the doubt (that will be touched on later), but as it stands, this is not a good comic.
In professional wrestling, there’s a term called ‘overbooking.’ It’s when a storyline gets so crowded with wrestlers, sub-plots, and weird endings that it never quite amounts to anything. Wolf #1 feels overbooked. Kot tries to tell about seventeen stories. Here’s a Cthulhu guy! Here’s some corruption! Here’s some war! Here’s a long diatribe about Los Angeles! What does it mean?! You have to respect that kind of moxie, but when you’re trying to do that within the confines of a monthly comic, it wouldn’t hurt to answer more questions than you’re asking.
Matt Taylor’s pencils will make you think of a cleaner Becky Cloonan. There’s a little less effort in the backgrounds on occasion, but there are fewer phoned-in pages per capita than the early pages suggest. Taylor really puts his back into it as the issue chugs along, and his performance suggests that there’s reason to expect improvement. His art is not hurt by the colors of Lee Loughridge, one of the absolute best in the business, whose work adds to the effortless-looking nature of Taylor’s pencils and inks.
The most promising thing about Wolf #1 is that it shows signs that Ales Kot might be growing up. There are no insulting, distracting footnotes. Nobody talks to anybody like they’re an idiot. The only caricature-esque characters are the rich white men, and that’s an effect that most will probably appreciate. Kot also hits a home run with the ending; unlike many of his first issues: we’re given a big question that’s worth answering.
The problem is: he asks too many questions in the main text without giving many answers. Obviously, it’s leading to something, but an issue has to stand on its own. Some of the best comic writers in the world haven’t been able to manage that, and Kot is no exception. Wolf #1 shows more promise than his past projects, but he’s also got a lot of questions to answer, and a lot of hype to live up to. Fans of Ales Kot might be well-served to pick up Wolf #1; this hits a lot of the same story notes as a lot of his work (war, Los Angeles, the supernatural, race issues). Others might find it off-putting and predictable.