Review: Wolves by Becky Cloonan

Written and Illustrated by Becky Cloonan

Becky Cloonan is the comic artist’s artist. She has an unrivaled passion for comic books, whether she is contributing to them or devouring them. In addition to her creator-owned jam session Demo with writer Brian Wood (in addition to another Wood collaboration for Channel Zero: Jennie One), she forged ahead with her Eisner nominated solo project East Coast Rising, brought panache to Vertigo Comics’ American Virgin, and gave readers an awesome take on Namor in Marvel’s Strange Tales.

Cloonan also kept us updated with her life via her web comic Comics Attack, and teamed with Hwan Cho to bring us the rap/dance group web comic KGB. You may even have seen her artwork related to hip-hop group CunninLynguists or punk band Leftover Crack.

I emphasize her talent and workload because somehow, while juggling all of that and more, she was able to bring us Wolves. What was once a short story for a Japanese anthology is now an expanded work. Like most of Cloonan’s storytelling, visually and as a writer, the story seems simple but offers layer after layer to peel back.

In a snow-fallen forest, a hunter tracks the titular wolf. On his solitary journey, he reflects on his quest and the love he left behind.  The plot is pieced through the past and present, and like the hunter, readers will be disoriented and unnerved as they track through Cloonan’s deceptive narrative towards the climax.

While the story lends itself to multiple read-throughs and interpretations, Cloonan keeps things obscure enough to keep you critically thinking, and like the best disorienting endings, never gives you the real answer while still leaving your own conclusions satisfying.

The artwork is gorgeous. Cloonan’s trademark bold inks and heavy blacks are as clean and impactful as ever, without a line wasted or a panel misused. Her intricate finer line work and attention to detail makes the story and setting pop, thanks to the clever use of white space and thin lines.

Becky Cloonan is a comic artist who truly understands the art of the comic, and not just through pictures, but in layout, pacing, and being bold enough to attempt new and surprising tricks with the format. Wolves is, at it’s core, a love story, and I don’t mean the narrative. She loves comics and what they are capable of and represent, and Wolves couldn’t underline that any bolder.

Wolves is available for sale from Cloonan herself on the convention circuit this summer, and is a personally signed and numbered limited edition run of 1,000 (I acquired #357/1000 at the Toronto Comic Art Festival). Her blog has details, and these are her upcoming appearances if you’re eager to get your hands on a copy:

May 27-29 – MCMExpo. Royal Victorian Dock, London.
June 3-5 – Heroes Con. Charlotte, NC
July 21-24 – SDCC. Convention Center, San Diego.

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