I had some reservations when opening up “Red Wolf” #1 by Nathan Edmondson, Dalibor Talajic, Jose Marzan, Jr., Miroslav Mrva and Cory Petit. Period and genre pieces have experienced a resurgence of Native American representation in the last few years, yet — for every medieval examination of how people used to Netflix and Chill — there is a paucity of quality stories involving an entire subset of American citizens. When we do get a story about them, it’s often thick with tragedy; for instance, Jason Aaron and RM Guera’s “Scalped” was phenomenal but was so dark it left tar on my soul.
When they aren’t laced with sad themes, they deliver misunderstood character development that boils the characters down to an outfit and broken accent or a supporting role in another person’s story. No focus on the person — only the affectations learned from a few history books written by white people.
Thankfully, Edmondson’s focus on Red Wolf as a person creates a relatable point of view, allowing the character to be an both an expert and outsider. Edmondson doesn’t shy away from the commentary of the portrayal of Native Americans, using the ignorance of Timely’s settlers in 1872 to get much of the prejudicial subtext into book and allowing the title character to do his job as sheriff. It’s a challenge Red Wolf struggles with, and fans of Charles Xavier’s Dream will find common threads here. Some of the dialogue feels a stiff, erring on the side of establishing the setup, which is okay with me. Edmondson maintains a good flow across the issue, only to throw a curve ball as the villain of the issue takes Red Wolf away from his home. Hopefully, Edmondson will be able to continue the fish-out-of-water and man misunderstood themes without repeating himself in the next issue. He even finds time to sneak in a meta joke about Wolverine.
The pace of the issue is well-supported by Marvel vets Talajic and Marzan, whose maturation as artists in different types of stories allow a strong command of page layouts and shot choices. Red Wolf gets a Reddit-worthy splash page in the first scene, and the artists deftly handle the quieter sequences as well as the frantic action of the opening faceoff and the tense showdown in the climax of the chapter. There’s just enough grit in the art that it feels appropriate to the era, rather than an attempt to draw modern people in a historical setting; this isn’t “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Mrva’s colors give the setting its tone with earthy hues that made me want to reconnect with nature.
Though from a different tribe than Red Wolf, Marvel was smart to add graphic designer Jeffrey Veregge as a consultant on the series. It’s clear we, as westernized culture, haven’t done a great job of doing much more than exploiting Native American culture. I don’t know how much assistance Veregge is providing, but his cover is striking and I would love to see more of his design work creep into the pages of the series itself.
I think if you’re looking for a book about someone protecting a race of people that hates and fears them, then you’re going to dig this debut. Fans of Steve Rogers and Captain America will want to take a look as well; Red Wolf is a calming, authoritative voice focused on the bigger picture beyond prejudices. Fans of Batman’s detective skills and composure in the face of danger should also see some enjoyable thematic elements.
This is a good comic. With no recognizable intellectual property to which “Red Wolf” can tie itself, Marvel is going to have to rely on the goodwill of comics fans to spread the word about this series. Thankfully, they’ve created a product that feels like it will hold up. Edmondson is a writer who works well in single-character focused stories and creating thematic plots that challenge those characters to be their best; Talajic’s art is clean, expressive and inviting to new readers. “Red Wolf” #1 is well worth your time and a great start for a story about a Native American who has agency over his own story.