Kirkman, however, is from from being a one hit wonder. In fact, soon after being exposed to The Walking Dead I found myself initiated into an entire universe full of creative characters and visually rich stories. From his humble beginnings in Battle Pope to his first runaway success, Invincible, the man has shown that he's not only a talented writer but he's got good taste in artists as well. Just ask Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley, or Jason Howard.
One of the books that I've heard the most about is the recently concluded The Astounding Wolf-Man and I have to admit that I naively chalked this one up as another cash-in on the rise in popularity of Hollywood's "horror crap" when it first appeared back in 2007. Oh, how I couldn't have been more wrong. The Astounding Wolf-Man brilliantly references that 70's archetype of a "monster as a main character" with equal proportions of superheroics, sci-fi and shock horror.
It's apparent from reading the introduction alone that Kirkman is a superhero kid at heart and yet the supernatural aspects of the book are so interwoven within the fabric of the narrative that it could just as easily be seen as a modern day adaptation of Curt Siodmak's 1941 screenplay for the original Wolfman. The general plot centers on Gary Hampton, a CEO who has fallen on hard time... not the least of which involves being mauled by a werewolf and cursed with lycanthropy. Unaware of his curse, Gary soon becomes a danger to both himself and those around around him until a mysterious stranger named Zecheriah steps in and begins to teach Gary to control his powers.
But there's a catch. You see, Zecheriah is quite the monster himself (he's a vampire) and his motives quickly become less clear as the story progresses ending in perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching moments I've read in a comic in sometime. I won't spoil it for you suffice to say that it's impulsive, it's bad, and it sets the stage for one hell of a shi*t-storm when Volume 2 hits. Collecting Issues #1-7, Volume 1 offers SO much more for it's 14.99 price tag than 90% of the other trade paperbacks out there. It's sports a brand new cover designed specifically for this release, a decent introduction by Kirkman himself, and a gallery full of concept sketches and cover designs by artist Jason Howard.
Speaking of Howard, his work on the book is quite literally the driving force that fuels the story. There's a certain duality in Howard's sequential storytelling that lends the superheroics a certain credibility that makes the more horrific moments of the book all the more shocking. Whether it's an action shot of a slime monster attacking downtown or an exploding rib cage complete with viscera, Howard treats them with equal care. In fact, it's often the quieter moments in the book that have the most impact like when the Wolf-Man is standing atop the roofs of the city or Gary's daughter, Chloe, vents her frustrations about being picked on at school. Overall, it's an "astounding" read and I can't wait to pick up the Volumes 3 & 4 for Christmas.