Greetings all and welcome to something new we are trying here at the world famous repository of ill-informed comic book knowledge know as Graphic Novice. It is I, Desmond Hassing (of the many podcasts-Musings of a Geek, Pilots, The Arkham Social Horror, Slackademia and who knows I may even start another one by the time we post this article) coming to you live via the written word in a new addition we should probably title Musings of the Graphic Written Word for Novices.
Now if you listen to The Graphic Novice podcast, and I will presume you do since you found this article in the first place, you know that every week Nickel and VF do a phenomenal job of bring you passionate commentary on a wide variety of mainstream comics from publishers like Image and Boom, as well as those two little upstarts DC and Marvel. However there is a big problem with what the boys do, they love comics, they really, really do. Not just the comic itself, but also the feel of the thin paper sheets on their fingertips and the feeling of possession that comes with the ownership of a physical comic book. Now I don’t judge them for this, I too loved owning comic books when I was young, although I never did enjoy the feeling the pages of those old newsprint style books left on my fingertips. That feeling aside however, there was never a greater joy than being able to pull out a copy of Uncanny X-Men #213 and watching your best friends eyes fill with envy.
VF and Nickel’s love of real world comics means that they rarely, if ever, look at digital comics and many of today’s smaller indie houses intend for their books to primary be read digitally in an effort to keep costs down (paper is expensive after all). So that’s what I intend to take a look at here and hopefully I can steer you towards books which are still great fun to read, but don’t require the deaths of so many trees.
This time we take a look at Wolves of Summer written by Tony Keaton with art by Andrew Herbst.
A six issue miniseries from Alterna Comics Wolves of Summer is a tale of a roving pack of Hitler Youth (Boy solders) in the final days of World War Two and the struggle of one of the boys, many years later, to come to grips with the decisions he made as a young boy during that war (I know, doesn’t this just sound like the happiest story ever?).
Tony Keaton tells us a very hard story in Wolves of Summer, it is both hard in content (war being filled with such hate and death) and also just plain hard to read as his protagonist makes so many decisions throughout that we, as the audience disagree with (If you make it through this trade without saying “Oh don’t do that” out loud at least once, I will be shocked). However this difficult reading brings with it a sense of the real world which is so often absent in modern comics. Keaton’s protagonist is neither baby-faced hero, nor dashing anti-hero, but is rather a man who has made many choices in his life and sadly seems to regret most of them. He is a tragic hero, if he is a hero at all, and his story is a lamentable one.
Andrew Herbst art provides a strong counter balance to the dark and ominous tone of Keaton’s story telling. Heavily influenced by the work of Roy Lichtenstein, dots abound the landscape in this world that Herbst is creating, giving it a light and happy feel. To much the same effect as Lichtenstein, Herbst seems to be saying that, yes indeed you are reading a book about young boys killing Allied soldiers and then dying themselves, but in the end it is only a comic book. This stylistic choice was well chosen and keep the comic from growing too ponderous and sad. My only complaint of the art is that they chose not to embrace the bright primary colors so often favored by Lichtenstein in favor of a muted more black and white.
Wolves of Summer is available on Kindle, Apple Store and Comixology and will set you back only about the cost of two lousy Convergence tie-ins. I highly recommend it as an alternative during this abysmal DC event.
4.0 out of 5 Stars – Desmond Hassing
[Editorial Note: We here at Graphic Novice would like to warmly welcome Mr. Hassing to our ranks, and thank him for posting our first article since November 2014. When VF suggested that we put out an offer sheet and Desmond to the payroll, I was worried it would really cut into our bottom line. Luckily, the bean counters here at Graphic Novice were able to make it work, and the legendary roof top parties at GNHQ are still a go. Welcome to Graphic Novice Desmond Hassing, We Hope You Survive the Experience.]