The Astounding Wolf-Man Vol. 1

When Gary Hampton is mauled and left for dead–his life takes a drastic turn. Gary is cursed: When the moon is full he transforms into a beast of the night, a werewolf. This curse will not be used for evil – witness the birth of the world’s most unlikely new superhero: WOLF-MAN!

This is a series that Robert Kirkman launched back in 2007. The first issue was actually part of that year’s Free Comic-Book Day giveaway. I really loved this series, and thought I would start doing some retro-reviews, beginning with this volume here, which collects the first 7 issues. The basic premise revolves around Gary Hampton, a self-made millionaire. He’s married to a woman named Rebecca and they have a teenage daughter named Chloe, and they live in a large mansion with an older man named Dunford who is sort of their butler/personal assistant. One night on a camping trip Gary is mauled by a wolf and ends up in a month-long coma. Eventually he discovers that he’s become a werewolf. A mysterious man named Zechariah appears, who somehow knows a lot about what’s happened to Gary, and he helps train him in the use of his powers. Eventually Gary learns that he is able to transform at will into his wolf form at night. During most nights he retains his control over his personality, but has enhanced speed, strength, senses, and reflexes, as well as his super-sharp claws. There is one negative side-effect, once a month during nights with a full-moon he transforms into the wolf unwillingly and loses all control of himself, become a raging murderous animal. So he purposely has himself chained up on those night, before he transforms. But for the other night, gets a costume and after few public adventures, he becomes known as Wolf-Man, a new superhero.

That hardest thing about reviewing a book like this, is that Robert Kirkman packs this thing with so many mysteries and twists, practically every issue ends on a shocking cliffhanger, so I’m not sure how much I can even say without just spoiling everything. Yes, this is an old series, but this review is done for the benefit of new potential readers who missed it the first time around. I’ll say that at first it seems to start off being set up like a traditional superhero series. Gary builds an underground headquarters beneath his mansion, ala the Batcave, and under Zachariah’s tutelage he becomes more adept at using his new poers, so he goes on patrol at night and fights crime, including various supervillains and occasionally teams up with some other superheroes. Rebecca knows about his transformation and new double-life, as does Dunford, and eventually they let Chloe know too. I’ll note that this series takes place within the Kirkman corner of the Image-universe. Characters from Kirkman’s other books appear hear, Gary gets his costume from the same tailor who provided Mark Grayson with his costume to become Invincible. At one point Gary, as Wolf-Man, meets and receives a job offer from members of the superheroes-for-hire organization Capes Inc., as well as another group of young superheroes.

But no sooner does Kirkman establish a status quo for this title does he then proceed to blow it all to hell. Gary ends up being kicked out of his own company by stockholders, and finds himself under investigation for embezzlement, which leads to his family being evicted from their mansion. This causes trouble in Gary and Rebecca’s marriage, and Chloe is embarrassed by her lowered social status at school. Since it’s revealed pretty early on, I’ll say that Zachariah is a vampire, who has many secrets of his own, and that’s he’s not totally forthright with Gary. They encounter other werewolves, who travels in packs and there’s a whole secret background involving them and Gary’s connection to them. Secrets, lies, blood, death, drama, suspense, ACTION, this opening arc has it all. Kirkman pulls out all the stops to make this series captivating. By the time you to the final page, you’ll be breathless. And Jason Howard does a stellar job on the artwork. These seems to be a basic “tone” to the artistic look of these Kirkman superhero books, and Howard fits the style perfectly, with art that feels both retro and modern. Those who didn’t check this series out original are missing out.

Chacebook rating: FIVE STARS

available on comixology

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