A smartly laid out colour cover makes an assured first impression. Concise and helpful explanatory paragraphs on the inside front cover greatly assist in being able to leap in fully to the story, without that desperate search for context. You know where you are and are able to glean maximum enjoyment from the very first panel onwards.
This opens with a mono cityscape, The Kingdom. This is a Vampire Kingdom, a hustling, bustling metropolis, at night. The context and culture of this town is adroitly clarified with a perspicaciously witty placement of advertising hoardings and illuminated signage. These moments are well executed and certainly add to the reality of the world we’re being invited into.
We’re promptly introduced to the protagonist, Luke. Luke is appropriately depicted as an emo teenager in both appearance and perspective. His opening narrative instantly illuminates as to his current feelings about this city. Yet, these lines are such a fine example of compression. Suffice it to say, they’re not positive.
He seems to be just hanging around when he’s approached by a flat-capped adult who asks that age old question, “Why aren’t you at school?” Deep sigh. Expeditiously, this mildly annoying interruption to Luke’s thoughts is interrupted by an actual threat that’s far more urgent, immediate and bestial.
From here we flash-forward three years and find Luke, as part of a vampire settlement. In Wolf Country, we see Luke on a manner of hunting expedition with a slightly older colleague, Carmichael. Scribe Jim Alexander’s dialogue is down pat, appropriately bucolic as he goes about instructing his new associate, Luke, on the way things work in these parts. In fact, throughout this tale, the words of each persona ring true and are delivered with an economy that add genuine weight and a fine sense of drama to each moment, whilst applying an encompassing film of mystery overall.
Carmichael is visualised in a style that’s suitably provincial, yet instantly suggests the droogs in Clockwork Orange. A nice touch for a denizen of the Vampire Kingdom, labouring in the badlands.
In fact, Luke Cooper’s artwork throughout is very easy on the eye. The care that has clearly gone into the design, the page layouts and the storytelling certainly reaps rewards. Each page works in it’s own right, whilst contributing to the pace of the whole. The expressions and body language of both man and beast are adeptly rendered, adding to the characterisation and the action. Gradated tones, tints and solid blacks are used in a first-rate manner, contributing texture and depth to the depicted scenes and the moods therein. No page feels rushed or compromised. This sense of deliberation and confidence certainly draws you deeper into the story.
When Luke gets into a jam, Carmichael comes to his aid. During a moment of respite, Carmichael has the opportunity to ask this city-boy some questions. And under the circumstances, it seems only right that Luke responds to his queries. In doing so, we learn much more about Luke and what has occurred in the intervening three years. We also learn much about the nature of this pastoral settlement, why he’s there and what is expected of him.
In the latter part of this tale, these strands are artfully assembled to deliver a conclusion and a resolution that works by adding significance to all that’s gone before, that sits well within the parameters of it’s own logic and utterly fits in terms of character and viewpoint. One’s also left with a feeling that this is just the beginning and that there are finer treasures ahead. Just what you want from an Issue Number One!
The outer back cover is an additional treat, playing on some of that world-building detail I referred to earlier. Not a momentous thing of itself, yet it is certainly telling of the hard work made and attention being paid, in order to deliver a story well told. Respect is due.
You can order your copy of Wolf Country #1 here. You won’t feel short changed!