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The Astounding Wolf-Man #10

Posted: Saturday, December 6, 2008
By: Shawn Hill

Robert Kirkman
Jason Howard
Image Comics
Plot: It's time to learn the story of the vampire. It seems the Wolf-Man's former friend is actually his worst enemy, the Joker to his Batman. That Kirkman's a tricky fella, I tell ya.

Comments: This is an origin story, and it's a well-told one, if not stunningly original. Zechariah is like a few vampires we've seen before; given the dark gift, he wants to do good with it. Thing is, his idea of good is more like having more power than everyone else and telling them what to do "for their own good." Yeah, he's a raving loony toons, way too smart for anyone's good.

Howard goes to town on his flashback origin story, taking us to a 19th century full of economic strife and struggle, beset by illnesses and plague, and dreams of Crusades and noble ancestors. Zechariah lost one family to "the fever," but starts another, only to find himself viewed as too old to provide for them by potential employers.

When he's attacked by vampires, he thinks he'll at last be accepted into a powerful and ancient society, only the pathetic vampires he finds don't have one, or anything close. They're just hungry, and as desperate as the humans they prey on. It's pretty lame. Zechariah somehow keeps his head, and refrains from eating those he doesn't want to, and starts preying on the bad guys, making him (oh so modestly) maybe the first super-hero ever.

He should check in with Mina Harker and some other extraordinary gentlemen to see how well that's going to turn out. Kirkman has taken the interesting approach of revealing Gary's first ally to be a ruthless manipulator, and that makes Gary's first enemies (other werewolves) start to look like his actual potential friends. I wonder if he's even noticed that the team of "heroes" patrolling the town are also just vamps in fancy outfits, doing Zechariah's bidding.

As Zechariah explains it all to his doomed acquaintance in the hospital, Gary heals from a brutal training technique in the woods, a dismembered secret agent gets his partner to start putting his missing pieces back together, and Gary's daughter seeks Zechariah's help to defeat…her father, whom she thinks killed her mother. This title balances nimbly on an edge between wild fantasy and grim fatality, and thanks to Howard it always looks as great as it sounds.



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