March 8th, 2011
By Dave West & Andy Bloor
Published by Accent UK comics
Review written by Ste Davis
OK, before we get started, I’m going to level with y’all – I. Fucking. Love. Werewolves. Put it down to catching John Landis’ American Werewolf in London whilst evading my bedtime as a child or that MY PARENTS NEVER BOUGHT ME A PUPPY; rest assured if anything is even lycanthrope related I lap it up. MJ’s Thriller video. Teen Wolf and the overlooked Teen Wolf 2. Dog Soldiers. If I cared enough to pick sides I would be team Jacob through and through. So I come to review Dave West’s and Andy Bloor’s graphic novel The Wolfmen with more than a little bias.
The pitch is a more literal reading of Reservoir Dogs, including the signature sharp suits and skinny ties, where London’s gangland is led by a pack of (apparently) canine-mask wearing thieves who recruit a mortal man for help in their latest heist.
Leading early in the book with a fabulously cold-blooded bank robbery, the plot fires along at a terrific pace and Dave West manages to fit a surprising amount of gunplay thrills and horror chills, betrayals and twists into a limited amount of pages. Whilst the dialogue occasionally lapses into Danny Dyer-isms™, the writing is tight and efficient and you’re never in any doubt that these East End mobsters are tough cookies.
After the heist and it’s aftermath, introductions to the titular Wolfmen’s chief as well as the tepid first steps of a Police inspector trying to tie everything together, you’re left at the last page with a sense that this is just stage setting for a greater drama to come. Whilst we never feel as if we really get to know the characters intimately there’s enough established of them here to keep the pages turning, and hopefully to be developed further over time.
The art is brilliantly inked, using a very narrow palette Bloor makes the streets of London a hive of shadows and the chamber’s of the Wolfmen’s HQ is as noir-dark as Raymond Chandler pouring you a Guinness. And the all-important man-to-wolf transformation scene (a litmus test of quality in anything werewolf related, as any fan will tell you. And I am telling you) is a twisted montage and a great reveal of the final form, every throbbing vein and line of the werewolf’s snout rich with sinister shadow.
The Wolfmen themselves are fantastic, snarling beasts that get more and more monstrous in each frame they appear, starting out as Haloween-masked and ending the book as gun toting nightmares. Where it does suffer is that all these steel-jawed, grimacing, super-serious mobster types that take up the rest of the pages all look a little too alike, it’s difficult to get attached to them as individuals. The best characters are those with a strong look, especially the Wolfmens’ nameless pack leader and his mountain of muscle henchman.
But take it from me, if you’re looking for a moody crime comic with a horror twist, you could do a lot worse than barking up this particular tree.