By Oliver Gerlach
Wolverton, Thief of Impossible Objects, is, as the lengthy and descriptive title indicates, a fun adventure story about a thief of magical artifacts. It’s a great concept and an entertaining story, and the title makes the premise pretty clear from the first glance at the book. It’s a bit of a mouthful, though, and that’s kind of representative of the rest of the book.
Stark and Garrett’s story is excellent. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s engaging, and the action is great. Wolverton’s an enjoyable protagonist, and eldritch Victoriana is always an enjoyable concept to hang a story around. Stark and Garrett are clearly enjoying the writing process a lot, and there’s a great deal of creative energy coming from this team.
The art team is a similarly energetic one. The cover, a simple but eyecatching image floating over a stark white background, is engaging and different, standing out from the crowd effectively. Fortunately, the interior art lives up to the expectations set by this; Rodenbeck and Belmont are an exceptional artistic team. Rodenbeck’s storytelling is clear and engaging, and his characters are distinctive and emotive. Even his inks stand out, blending scratchy, sketchy figure drawing with heavy blacks and silhouettes. On top of this, Belmont’s restrained colour palette sets a fantastic atmosphere that really brings the book to life. This is a beautiful debut issue, and I sincerely hope that Rodenbeck and Belmont continue to work together for a long time to come; there’s real artistic alchemy at play here.
The Rodenbeck/Belmont art team and the Stark/Garrett writing team, however, do not work quite so well together. Stark and Garrett write stylish, period-appropriate (aside from an uncomfortably anachronistic Tetris reference) narration, and don’t seem to know when to stop. There’s a hell of a lot of this narration, and the majority of it feels redundant. Caption boxes are fine, but caption boxes that simply describe what’s going on in the panel only serve to slow things down and get in the way of Rodenbeck’s excellent storytelling. It reads almost as if Stark and Garrett’s panel descriptions from the script have been pasted in in addition to the panels themselves, and it really doesn’t help. Rodenbeck clearly has a strong grasp of comic-format storytelling, but Stark and Garrett do not seem to share this understanding. It’s a shame, as there’s a really strong comic in here, but the captions here need a simple edit to remove the redundant sections. It doesn’t help that some of the bolded, emphatic words are very strangely chosen; for the most part, the caption boxes serve as a distraction and an impediment to the storytelling, rather than a facilitator.
It’s entirely worth reading for Rodenbeck and Belmont’s art, despite the frustrating wordiness of the captions, and I have very high hopes for this series continuing and improving as Stark and Garrett learn and develop. Judging by the notes at the back, neither of them have much experience in comics, and this is a very solid start for them. If, in future, they can learn to relax a little and let the art bear the majority of the storytelling, this series could turn into something excellent.
Wolverton, Thief of Impossible Objects #1
Writers: Michael Stark, Terrell T. Garrett
Artists: Derek Rodenbeck
Colours: Ellen Belmont
Letters: Elizabeth McBride
Publisher: Burnt Biscuits Books