Comic Book Review: The Astounding Wolf-Man Complete Collection HC
If only you could see the look on my face when I picked up this book to feel the weight of this story that I didn’t even know existed till now. Just seeing that this was a book written by Robert Kirkman had me believing that this book staring at me was possible. That man knows how to start a story and take it to the moon. I actually found myself quite impressed that someone was actually willing to do a superhero story about a werewolf of all things. Pretty bold if you ask me since in most cases a werewolf is very limited in when they are useful.
From the minute this story began, I appreciated how this creative team put the effort into giving us a new story. One that we haven’t read before or too heavily following the mythology of a werewolf. Gary Hampton isn’t your usual timid guy or woodsman who inconveniently finds himself bitten by a werewolf. He already has a significant other, a kid, and a somewhat successful professional life. That is a lot of things they have done with this character to make his life different from what you might expect. Even just having the opportunity to see this curse as an opportunity to do good rather than to constantly fear of it was a good change. Sometimes you can only take so much of the timid victim who pushes everyone close to him away, while also trying everything and the kitchen sink to get rid of the curse. The biggest plus here is what Gary is capable of as the Wolf-Man compared to most others who would find themselves in his position. There was a decent amount added here that is more than the usual mythology. It kept things interesting when even when you thought you understood it all, there was still much more to learn.
What I thought was cool was what Gary had to deal with in his everyday life. It wasn’t always about the troubles that come with being Wolf-Man. There was always the problem of his company and what he needed to do in order to stay afloat. Most characters in his position would live day-to-day just trying to hold a simple job, but here he is the founder of a large company. Trying to keep a hold of that shakes things up from the cliche.
I’m not going to lie, I was a bit blindsided by the brutality of this book. You see that this is a Kirkman story, yet somehow because it isn’t one of the more current books you don’t brace yourself for how violent things can get. They were not pulling punches here and more than any story before it felt more fitting dealing with monsters. But while we are on the subject of being blindsided, I also wasn’t expecting that Wolf-Man be a story that takes place in the Invincible Universe. As I’ve mentioned in a number of reviews for Invincible, I came into the series very later on. Which means things like Mark meeting Gary were moments I missed out on. Luckily it doesn’t make you really feel like you missed out on anything because it is a loose connection. It actually makes sense that a hero like Wolf-Man would exist in that universe since it is one already established.
The supporting cast for Astounding Wolf-Man was cool or the fact that this wasn’t your average story of a werewolf. You have Zechariah who is a vampire of all things that eases him into this world. I wasn’t too shocked by the inclusion of a vampire, but it did make things more engaging where there was someone to relate to. For a second I was having flashes to Being Human which is another example of where a vampire and a werewolf can become allies who go through the same struggles being monsters to the rest of the world. That is for as long as it could last. It was the inclusion of other superheroes that caught me off guard most. It shouldn’t have been too surprising that this was made to be a superhero world considering the writer is Robert Kirkman, yet it still was and kept things exciting. There was something for Gary to work towards and something for him to fear if he were to lose control. Other heroes over time stood out more than others and I did come to like them as well. You got a greater understanding of who they are, what they do and what they fight for which gave them relevance.
The villains were many and I have to say bravo to this creative team for being able to develop so many in 25 issues. They each managed to grab your attention in one way or another. Some cliche, while others proved to be quite unique whether it was their name, their power, or the way they went about stirring up trouble. There was always that one villain that you knew took importance over the rest, yet as a whole they all kept things interesting where one minute you’re focused on one person and the next minute someone else may pop up who is just as dangerous if not more.
As far as plot goes, I found myself very impressed by the way this story progressed. From the minute Gary’s world got flipped upside down, the pacing was consistently moving you from one situation to the next. This hero has been through a lot in what almost feels like a short amount of time, even though much this spans over a fair period time as well. I mean seriously when I read 25 issues, I look at this brick and thought this has to be more. Sure seemed so and I’m not arguing because so much story and action was packed into this. There was more character development than I felt we deserved from more than just Gary. Every little thing mattered from start to finish.
The art team for this collection blew me away as the art team for this book. Jason Howard is the main artist for this book along with FCO and Ivan Plascencia as the colorists. You could definitely see where Ryan Ottley/Cliff Rathburn came in for the chapter 11 issue where Invincible crossed over into the story. With that said, nothing to dramatic of a change there that it would distract you. I’m certain I had to double-back just to make sure I was seeing that there was a change in artist. That aside, Jason Howard impressed me here. It was easy to see that this was during a time of development for him, but even then he produced good work for a superhero story. You could definitely see where he was challenging himself with poses which mattered a lot when dealing with the likes of werewolves and vampires. A lot of the action sequences flowed so well because he tapped into what made all these opposing forces monsters. I mean again don’t get me started for all the gore and violence that I wasn’t not quite prepared for. Luckily the reds splashing every which way didn’t take away from key moments. Its hard not to agree that this looks fresh for a story created ten years ago. As I pointed out above as well, the art team as a whole deserve recognition for the creativeness that went into the design of a lot of these heroes and villains. None felt like characters you’ve seen before. All were given something distinguishing about them that grabbed your attention instantly. For me it was Mecha-Maid who required a touch of finesse when detailing some of the things she is capable of when transforming and reforming.
I never knew about The Astounding Wolf-Man until the complete collection HC came, but I’m glad I was able to see what everyone else liked about this story. Wolf-Man I have to say this is my favorite Robert Kirkman story so far involving superheroes. It definitely holds up to any good superhero story you would read today that isn’t from the big two. Gary is undeniably the world’s most unlikely new superhero, and this had the most unique twist on what it means to be a werewolf in a superhero world. Everything about it felt so genuine to redefining the life of a superhero, the good and the bad. You either wither away with the troubles, or you grow from them.