Wednesday, November 20, 2013

365 Comics...324: Wulf #1 (2011)

In comics you can't keep a good idea down for long.  But then again, in comics, you can't keep any idea down for long.  In the decade of property farming that is the 2010's everything that has ever come before will come again, all will be resurrected, if it hasn't been already.  With comic book properties dominating the media landscape (the San Diego Effect) everyone's trying to create something or license something and bring it to the fore in hopes that there will be some sweet Hollywood paydirt coming there way.  It's perhaps a little cynical, that view, since I, like many, absolutely love the medium itself, and somewhere there just might be someone completely keen on the Atlas heroes and wanting them to return to comics after a 35-year absence.

I'm not 100% certain the motivation of Ardden Entertainment's publishers, but Editor-in-Chief Mike Grell is certainly a familiar name in the comics world, and there's a dedication in the inside front cover to Martin and Chip Goodman, so there has to be some form of affection for the old stuff...maybe?

Anyway, for a couple years some Atlas characters and concepts returned to comics under the banner "Atlas Original".  Wulf, Phoenix and The Grim Ghost were each revived in their own 6-issue mini-series.

Now I'm a regular, almost daily purveyor of the comics blogosphere and I don't recall much, if any, fanfare surrounding the return of these Atlas creations.  Having just dove into the Atlas backstory these past few days, I definitely understand why, but Atlas Original should have made at least a little splash given that some name talent was involved.  Grell as EnC, Steve Niles on Wulf, Tony Isabella on the Grim Ghost, and Jim Kreuger on Phoenix... that lineup at least should have raised a few eyebrows towards this venture.  I suppose it may have, just not to me.

Anywho, as I was bin diving for original Atlas books, I found the first issue of Wulf, which, quite frankly, looked not quite up my ally.  A couple cops staring down a shied-and-sword wieldign rustic warrior on the cover.  No thanks.  My curiosity was more in what kind of back-matter was in this book, how was Atlas Original selling itself to the people who were trying it and buying it.  And that's where the disappointment seeped in.  There was no sell.  There was an ad for their website (now defunct) and letters pages (but just published letters, no replies, but no personality, not even a drab bullpen letter like the one Larry Lieber gave us.  Its like it wants you to be excited for the return of Atlas comics based on the merits of Atlas Comics, and there's not much merit there to be had.

Wulf #1 itself begins with fireballs raining down on the earth.  The narrative questions whether it's the end.  We follow an obvious warrior on horseback as he faces down a reveling-in-the-destruction sorcerer, a grim battle ensues, a portal to the future opens where the brutalized mage escapes.  On the other end of the portal, a gruff cop named Lomax (remember him from 365 #321?) is witness to the sorcerer's emergence, and when Wulf's hand comes through the portal, Lomax reaches out to help, only to be pulled through himself.

It's not a bad set-up, just Niles' script is terribly decompressed.  To compliment the original Atlas books, briefly, they packed in a lot of derivative story elements into one issue.  Here it's two relatively simple concepts leading to the more interesting set-up, that of a cop drawn into a world of sword-and-sorcery instead of a barbarian drawn into the modern day, though I suppose it could go that way too. The art from Nat Jones is the weaker spot, though, muddy and at times incomprehensible.  It's not outright terrible but definitely in need of refinement.

Wulf, as well as Phoenix and The Grim Ghost, all lasted through their 6-issue runs (longer than any of the original series it should be noted) from 2010 through 2012, as well as Atlas Unified, a cross-over "event" written by Tom Peyer, which does what the original Atlas didn't do: create a single universe out of these properties.

I thought I saw the Pheonix and Ardden Entertainment on Comixology when I first started with the app a few years back, but I think they're all gone now.  The only way to read anything more is to hit eBay or be fortunate in bin diving.  I'm thinking about it.

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