Women, Words, Werewolves, and a Life in Three Parts: A Joint Review of Age of the Wolf

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Cover, Alec Worley, Jon Davis-Hunt, Simon Bowland, Rebellion, Age Of The Wolf

Age of the Wolf

Alec Worley and Jon Davis-Hunt
Lettering by Simon Bowland
Rebellion
Originally for 2000 AD

Two WWAC writers discuss a book that promised a new take on the werewolf mythos.

Desiree

Age of the Wolf is a story about a young woman named Rowan forced into a prophecy that requires her to sacrifice her life for the greater good. The book follows her story through three story arcs of Rowan’s life battling a predestined fate in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by werewolves. By artist Jon Davis-Hunt and writer Alec Worley, through publisher Rebellion, and first appearing serialised in 2000AD, Age of the Wolf combines the classic horror elements of the werewolf mythos along with interesting fantasy symbolism and allusions.

Age of the Wolf is rife with symbolism; some of which I enjoyed, some of which I felt fell a little flat. I enjoyed the small callbacks to other myths – the bit about little red riding hood was clever without being overwrought – as well as the small details such as the words “Legend” on Rowan’s sweatshirt.

Claire

I really liked the “Legend” hoodie, too. I used to have a hoodie with LEGEND (LEGENDS?) written across the front, it was very much the Cool Thing from a Cool Shop in my town so that brings back sweet teen triumph feelings. Those mix well with werewolves.

Desiree

I felt the pacing was very rushed however, leaving very little time to actually develop or like any of the characters presented in the story. I did enjoy the three parts of Rowan’s life and how each piece involved a physical transformation on her part. However, I felt that actual emotional development was really lacking.

Claire

I did, too, unfortunately. I thought it started pretty well, and it’s not that any of the relationships introduced seemed false or unlikely, but.. I couldn’t see their hearts. It might have been down to the art — I felt several times that the panel by panel pacing and focus choices or (lack of) expressions were getting in the way of my engagement with the characters.

Desiree

I would have loved more insight on her life in between the moments when she became a hardcore werewolf hunting warrior woman. I felt she needed some sort of companion, someone for her to play off of, express her thoughts and feelings, so we could really get inside her head. Yet, everyone around her kept dying (Maria, Pete, Ash I really wanted to see more of), leaving her an empty sort of character.

Claire

Me too! A sidekick would have helped… or even just a much longer series. It’s a real shame Pete didn’t stick around. I liked him a lot. I feel like I got the gist of an epic life story, but not actually much of the detail. She turns up in her Little Red Robin Hood guise (which is SUCH AN EXCITING IDEA to me, I seriously seriously want to see more of that period) with this gang of pals, and… who are they? How does she know them? How did she meet them this time? There are no clues. And then they die. In a story like this, about someone fighting to save humanity because individuals matter, we should be introduced to the individual and care when they die. Most of the characters in this story were fang fodder, and that doesn’t help anchor the emotional journey.

Desiree

I did appreciate the lack of fan-service scenes featuring her character. There were lots of moments when Jon Davis-Hunt could have gone for cheesecake, yet the only shot of that was in the warped mind of a man who lusted after his ideal imagined image of Rowan.

Claire

I liked the nudity post-regeneration.

Desiree

I did enjoy the aspect of that storyline of a man who completely invented a relationship with his ideal woman and forced upon her that image and then blamed her when she proved his fantasy false. It mirrors what real women go through – particularly with ‘nice guys’ – however on a more extreme fantasy level.

Claire

I hated that under Worley’s pen, she used “scream/punch like a girl” against this guy. That’s not cool at all, especially as he mentions being aware of the stigma around woman characters in his foreword.

Desiree

I agree. I thought that felt a little forced for her character. Rowan wasn’t suppose to be a ‘Strong Female Character’ like Buffy, she was suppose to be a fully-fledged person. So the trope, whether used consciously or not,  about how she’s ‘not like other girls’ was in poor form.

Claire

Honestly, I don’t feel like I know Rowan at all myself — his idea of her (and where DID that come from? Was it magic or personal delusion? It seemed like magic) based on nothing echoes the way that the book barely introduced her before her story took off. What do we know? She’s the last one to panic. She has an interest in motorcycles and works at a dog shelter. Her mother died drunk driving which is relevant only because she mentions it. It doesn’t actually impact the scene or her subsequent decisions. How did she learn to use a bow? What does she have in common with Ash? Why did she, or her family, move to London from Ireland? How does she relate to or remember the characters from the middle section of the story? Like you said, there’s not enough emotional connection.

Desiree

This goes back to what you were saying earlier; the story could/should have been longer. I think it would have benefited from more dialogue, less epic battles which, while fun, didn’t add much to her as an individual character other than to say that she was feared and could fight well.

Be as it may, I did like the reversal of a female character taking her agency back from a story that removes it from her. The opening of the book really sets that tone.  The Greek myths were a nice allusion, and this aspect of the book shines brightest in the first arc.

Claire

I thought the ending concept was strong. No spoilers, but it was collaboration between women who cared deeply about each other and about others.

Desiree

Yes! I did thoroughly enjoy that aspect of the end. Still wished there had been more moments between the two characters to really establish an emotional connection, but I thought the third arc of the book was emotionally the strongest. While the first arc was the strongest narratively with a really great setup for the series, and the tone was spot on.

post-apocalyptic make-up, Alec Worley, Jon Davis-Hunt, Simon Bowland, for 2000 AD, Age Of The Wolf

Post-apocaltyptic mascara tips: one of Rowan’s many secrets

Overall I enjoyed the story. The world building is probably the strongest aspect of the book. The plot keeps moving forward, and Rowan is certainly a character that keeps it moving. However, characterization is where the book loses itself a little with its breakneck speed through the story.

I would have easily traded a battle scene of Rowan killing werewolves with her talking with Ash a little more (or Ash not dying which felt really pointless so I’m a little bitter).

lush crone, Alec Worley, Jon Davis-Hunt, Simon Bowland, for 2000 AD, Age Of The WolfClaire

I agree. I thought she was going to be only interested in women following the “never cared for the company of men” comment at the end of the first section, but having a character with his own investments and motivations that interact interestingly with werewolves and written magic was a great choice, if it must be a chap. There’s loads in this book that I did really get into — the flowers from her blood, the runes, the Little Red Robin Hood, the London forest, the I Am Legend elements. I think the art made a few mistakes, though. I didn’t enjoy her obvious make-up, post-apocalypse, and her “crone” character design was absurd. Give her a big witch hat, fine, great, but her face was barely changed, and her bust was high and firm as it ever was! Kiera’s design was questionable, too; in her later scenes she’s also very carefully made up which again is daft, and in her first non-baby appearance, she was supposed to be six years old. She’s clearly a young adult!

Desiree

I would have loved it if she were a lesbian, or bisexual, but there was barely any time used to develop those sort of relationships. I really liked Ash as a character; we hardly ever get to see Muslim characters,  or brown and black characters in general, in fantasy/horror series such as this. I really thought he would make it; him and Rowan would have to deal with her disregarding his feelings and religious beliefs – giving her a very real and human flaw of being selfish – and them taking down a metaphoric post-apocalyptic Nazi society together.

adult bodied child, Alec Worley, Jon Davis-Hunt, Simon Bowland, for 2000 AD, Age Of The Wolf

Six years old?

The gender and racial layers there, had it gone that route, would have been amazing to see. Do you see why I’m so bitter about Ash?

Also, agree about Kiera. I was surprised to read that Rowan had left her when she was six as in the flashback she looked close to the same age as she did in the present. I think this goes back to comic artists not really knowing how to draw children, especially little girls.

Claire

Yeah. And I guess it’s hard to learn to draw kids if you don’t have any yourself, maybe? Don’t want to look like a sketchy predator? I don’t know.

adult keira, Alec Worley, Jon Davis-Hunt, Simon Bowland, for 2000 AD, Age Of The Wolf

The adult version of Keira

Keira has a lot of possibility as a character. She’s smart, she knows a lot, and what she knows is interesting. More than anything, by the time I reached the end of this book, I was regarding it as an excellent pilot for a weekly ongoing. It’s a bit all over the place, ends up kind of sloppy trying to catch all of its cool ideas and hold them together, but I want more from this mythos.

Desiree

Agree completely, I would love to see a more in-depth look into this world Alex Worley and Jon Davis-Hunt have created. I love the allusions to various myths and the take on magic. I would love to see maybe some one-shots based in this world.

The second arc could really use them: smaller stories about Rowan’s growth from the first arc to her gaining a reputation as Little Red, meeting Ash and others, etc. Rowan is the savior of humanity, so I felt she really needed some stronger human connections.

Claire

I liked “Rowan” as our protagonist’s name, Rowans being pretty storied, and “Morrigan” as surname worked well with the subtle tri-sectioning of her story, buuut it seemed a bit obvious used unaltered. Rowan Morrigan, hmm, wonder if she can do magic? Though I gotta say I didn’t notice that Ash is a tree name too until just now.

Something I like a lot in werewolf films is the transformation sequence. I say “sequence” which is sort of ridiculous but sort of telling — the transformation part of the mythos is an absolute gift to filmmakers, because the creation of a sequence is a chance to excel at their craft. Universal’s Wolfman growing hair, the practical effects from American Werewolf in London — these stick in the mind and in pop culture and are homaged and recreated and copied because they’re peak cinema. There’s not the same opportunity for splendour in comics, I don’t think, and I certainly didn’t feel the same visceral enjoyment or creative interest in the transformations in this book. But I did like, a great deal, the last moments of the humans who became werewolves. Those were some places that I felt the emotional content was highest and purest, and like I could imagine these characters as individuals. How about you?

transformation, Alec Worley, Jon Davis-Hunt, Simon Bowland, for 2000 AD, Age Of The Wolf

Desiree

Creating a new and interesting interpretation of werewolf transformations has become harder and harder throughout the years. I liked the ideas present in the Underworld series. They were grotesque and real in a certain biological way that I appreciated. Hemlock Grove presents the transformations in a truly wicked, bloody sort of way that I’ve never seen before. It’s hard to be surprised by werewolf transformations so I appreciate it when I can be.

While I wasn’t especially impressed or surprised by the transformations in this book, I did like the raw fear of the moments before they became werewolves. It felt individual for each character like Rowan’s best friend who said she felt amazing going through her transformation. Yet, you also had that poor bystander who was scared to death of transforming. Then you had Ash who quietly resigned himself to his fate because of his own religious beliefs. Those moments really shone in the book and showcased the real difference between the characters which gave it a real human element. We hardly see a character’s mindset pre-transformation in other works.

Claire

Wolfsbane, Picton gardens, CLaire Napier, 2014

Wolfsbane!

I loved the imagery of Rowan’s flowering stump in the first — let’s call it the Maiden section. It was cool in its own right, but I also liked the nod to the herbaceous origins of werewolf trouble. Wolfsbane blooming, and all that. I like the organic, dirty themes that werewolves tend to have, plants and bodily alchemy, and I thought there was a nice effort made to include that sort of stuff here. Plants, plant life, and use of plants were pivotal throughout every stage of Rowan’s life (as well as in her name). Even Keira used knowledge of roots and leaves to some effect twice. I was really into that.

Desiree

The smaller details like that really helped the story overall. You could tell there was real thought and care that went into it through those details.

Claire

talulla risingIt’s also pretty classic to have the protagonist fall to the call of the moon. I suppose I should have seen it coming, but I actually didn’t — Rowan’s eventual transformation was a real surprise. For me, it complicated things more than I think it was supposed to; why does humanity matter in itself, so much, if werewolves are evolving to humanlike civilisation, and if our hero is one of them… why not just get everyone together and go forward into a new tomorrow? The best werewolf novel I’ve read, Talulla Rising, is about living as a post-human, and it makes for really, really interesting reading and spurred a lot of my own thinking. Why not take Rowan there? Why not continue the story?

Desiree

I felt it was suppose to be a metaphor for man vs. beast. I thought it was interesting that the werewolves evolved at such a rate technologically yet were still willing to do barbaric things like send their children to be slaughtered. Where humans were willing to put their lives on the line for a single baby, but weren’t nearly as evolved scientifically. Yet, they also claimed that their kind didn’t need violence like humans did even though they engaged in it heavily.

I think it would have been a better had they dug deeper into that metaphor. Would the world be better with wolves at the helm? What makes them better than humans other than hovercrafts? They’re willing to let their children die, but humans are willing to sell each other into slavery for profit. I think a revolution that they we’re all truly the same – at the core – would have been really interesting.

The story overall had some really interesting mythos built into it. There was a lot of care that went into it, and with a bit more story, it would be even better. I would have loved to learn more about the ruins, Rowan’s grandmother, and see Rowan make a real connection with humanity through other characters. If Worley and Davis ever wanted to continue or expand on the series, I would be all for it.

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About Author

The rock that drops on your head. WWAC Chief Comics Ed. Find me at claire.napier@wwacomics.com

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