Writer: Mark London
Artist: Alejandro Giraldo
Letterer: Miguel Angel Zapata
Publisher: Mad Cave Studios
WHAT IS IT?
A gothic, monster hunting, time travel epic featuring vampires, werewolves, and high fashion.
Wolvenheart is a Castlevania-inspired adventure with heavy doses of Doctor Who and Torchwood.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Sterling Cross is a dhamphir (half-vampire) agent of Wolvenheart, an organization that hunts monsters that have been unleashed across time and space. While dispatching a werewolf, he learns of the prophecy of the Queen in Black that threatens to destroy Wolvenheart and enslave the world. Sterling believes he can handle it, but soon learns it is far beyond his control.
Mark London’s narrative is lively and light, keeping the dark tones of the story from wearing on the reader.
Alejandro Giraldo’s panel layouts and character designs are astounding, but his colors are where he truly shines, using neons that saturate the scenes into a mesmerizing neo-noir. These colors would easily complement a cyberpunk aesthetic, but it works unexpectedly well with this series' gothic aesthetic.
Miguel Angel Zapata's lettering works in contrast to London’s writing; it brings us back viscerally to the moment, whether it is the "tap tap tap" of the Queen’s finger or the roar of a werewolf, Zapata’s letters shine.
The world of Wolvenheart is dense, fascinating, and beautiful in its own dark, gothic way.
The character designs are top-notch. Both the reinvisioned historical figures and the new characters are realized in equally interesting ways. It's reminiscent of the Fate: Stay/Night series where the flashy and canny nature of the character's designs and outfits add flavor to the comic.
Visually interesting layouts and splash pages really sell fight scenes and the incredible way Sterling travels through time.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content Warning: Stereotypical depictions and racism. Sterling Cross is Romani, as is his family, Kesia and Sabine. This is first mentioned as a pun alluding to the fact he is a Traveler (an oft used English term for the Romani) and a time traveler, then that he has "fiery blood" due to his heritage. Enemies also use his ethnicity as an insult every chance they get, which comes across as particularly insensitive and unnecessary. This could be forgivable if it felt like part of a central theme or if the Romani were depicted with any depth at all. As it stands, Kesia is a fortuneteller, which is a massive stereotype, and there's also not much more nuance to anyone in the family. A sensitivity reader would have been helpful when depicting these characters. Another group is also mentioned in the founding of Wolvenheart, a clan known as the Bokor. But virtually no information was given about them. Doing a bit of research, I learned that the title is in reference to a male Vodou witch, typically of Haitian, New Orleanian, or Congolese origin. They are given no historical context (so far) and are essentially used as a costume choice.
Van Helsing makes reference to the story of the two wolves, a tale often attributed to Native Americans that is popular in New Age circles but was actually originally coined by Billy Graham, a televangelist. In a more thematically self-aware comic, this could be a solid time travel joke, but it's hard to give the benefit of the doubt given the representation problems already listed.
Time travel is prominent in this series and, as a result, it becomes clear that a child character ends up having a baby with a character significantly older than her who knew her as such after she grew up...it's a little gross for my taste.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Editors' note: Wolvenheart is a divisive read. The comic is filled with action, and the plot is packed with historical details tweaked to fit the book's conceit.
However, there is a larger conversation to be had about representation vs. stereotyping. Wolvenheart does feature Romani heroes - a group we often don't get to see in this role in more mainstream comics - but the book leans heavily on cultural stereotypes and out-group language, and the characters' culture feels a bit like set dressing. Additionally, including problematic language that may have been common parlance in a specific time period does not absolve us of care when using that language now.
We were not able to confirm if any of the creative team are of this culture, or if a sensitivity reader was employed.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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