Vampires and werewolves have fought out their eternal war in rip-off Matrix style, then again three more times in the same style, and with heavy staring in the vicinity of Forks, Washington. Now in author Jim Alexander‘s Wolf Country, the battle comes to the wild west, the final frontier. Vampire and holy man Halfpenny leads like minded individuals in both body and spirit in the Settlement. They constantly fight off werewolf attacks with the two resources they have: guns and God. Halfpenny is eventually summoned to the Kingdom, the premiere vampire city, to deal with a badly behaving vampire. Until his return, the Settlement is left at the mercy of government officials who enjoy hunting werewolves almost as much as setting people on fire.
Wolf Country is far from a typical vampires vs. werewolves story. It’s more than a wild west story; there isn’t even a hint of John Wayne or a tumbleweed. What makes it unique is how philosophical it becomes. Religion and politics play a central role among the vampires, particularly with those roughing it at the Settlement. It’s a story told squarely from the vampire’s perspective, and I’ll be honest, I’m siding with the werewolves. One vampire hobby is to capture wolves, transport them to the Kingdom, and either stick them in a zoo or chop them up for sport. Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, there are several time frames in history that have inspired portions of this comic. Take your pick.
With so much philosophy and exposition needed, the plot is slow to the get-go. It takes over thirty pages for Halfpenny to go to the Kingdom. There’s also a lot of time in between action, be that expressed through wolf invasions or vampire on vampire crime. In those waiting periods, the reader is treated to talking. A lot of talking. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if all it was were fight-fight-romantic subplot-fight, then it would just be like a Michael Bay film. Nobody needs that. But it does take either a few reads or close examination the first time to fully absorb and appreciate what is being said.
Illustrators Luke Cooper and Will Pickering each bring distinctive styles to the Wolf Country artwork. The look of the vampires, particularly in the Settlement, appear to have been inspired by A Clockwork Orange. The use of black, white and gray as the color scheme further adds to the grit of the comic. It’s easy to decipher which artwork belongs to which illustrator, as Pickering tends to use white as his primary color. That leads to a disconnect between issues, because Cooper makes deliberate choices on what exactly is pure white. With Cooper, the wolves are black, and the vampires are certainly pale. The only purely white things in his illustrations is God and the occasional moon, and it’s very attention grabbing. Whereas with Pickering’s issues, the backdrops are stark white.
Overall, Wolf Country is not tied to one genre. It’s familiar werewolves versus vampires conflict mixed with a Western show down makes it feel fresh. It’s exploration of religion and politics is not for the casual reader, but someone willing to sink their claws and fangs in completely.