This morning I’m canceling my subscription to Red Wolf. I didn’t want to. I really wanted to like this title. And honestly, there isn’t really anything wrong with it. It’s just not…uh…You know.
This isn’t easy for me. The loss is real. Mr. Wolf and I go way back. One of the books my mother bought me when I was still in knee pants was Red Wolf. Back then he was a cavalry scout named Johnny Wakely. Johnny was an orphan Cheyenne, adopted by a white couple and trying to find his way in the world. He had a mystic mentor named Owayodata and he wore a groovy wolf skin hat. He also had an actual red wolf as a side kick. How cool is that? Red Wolf didn’t actually look very much like a native American. He looked more like Steve Rogers. Only kind of pink.
It was just as awful as you image it would be. The average Caucasian comics writer (or reader) back then didn’t know the difference between a Cheyenne and an Navajo. Or a Cheyenne and Turk for that matter., The book was full of wince worthy stereotypes, hoary old tropes and goofy plots. It was also fun.
That’s what is missing in the new version. It’s not fun. And it really should be. It has all the elements. Sheriff Red Wolf is a dry as dust straight man, ripped (literally) out of the Wild West and deposited in modern New Mexico. Fortune and circumstance find him pitted against modern meth dealers and some murderous ne’er do wells. Everything is set up for one of two things. They could have given us a funny, man-out-of-time yarn. A book that was equal parts comedy of errors and lighthearted adventure (with lots of clever asides made mostly at the protagonist’s expense). Or, they could have set a darker tone and given us a grim and gritty tale of the alienated outsider. The hero lost in a world he doesn’t understand, striving to do some good without losing his soul.
Instead they gave us a cold plate of Meh with a side of Lame Sauce. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with this title. Nathan Edmondson’s writing is apt. His storytelling is direct and to the point. He does show a shocking lack of knowledge concerning venomous snakes but that seems to be an industry standard. The pencils by Dalibor Talajic are more than adequate. Unlike many of the pencilers in Marvel’s current bullpen, his action is easy to follow. On top of that, Marvel has enlisted Jeffrey Veregge, a Native American Artist to illustrate the gorgeous covers and to provide character designs and consulting. Nothing about Red Wolf really stands out as rotten.
But, that’s sort of the problem. Nothing really stands out. Nothing. The few jokes (which we have all seen a thousand times before) fall flat. The story isn’t compelling. The main character is just sort of dull. More than that, he seems a bit dull-witted. If the other characters weren’t even duller he wouldn’t stand out at all. I realize that the creative team are trying to be sensitive. They are doing their best to give us a Native American character who is not offensive. One devoid of racial stereotypes and ethnic clichés.
Unfortunately, what they have given us is a main character who is just not compelling, not particularly interesting and, in the end, still a bit clichéd. Additionally, they have created a title that is just not fun. And no comic can survive that for long. Don’t look for this reboot to go beyond issue #12.
That’s just my opinion. But I’m always right. Mostly.
He also sings for the Supra-70s band, RIFLE.