Not renowned for his lack of brash!

Wulf the Barbarian #4

Wulf the Barbarian #4 cover

Written by Mike Friedrich
Penciled by Jim Craig
Lettered by Shelly Leferman

Another day, another creative team, another repurposed Kull script for "the thinking man's barbarian." This time, Mike Friedrich and Jim Craig pit Wulf against a blonde thief who has mastered the art of simultaneously fighting and flirting, and an old friend turned into a blood-sucking vampire monster with tentacle feet.

On the plus side, they make an attempt to tie everything into the Wulf mythos, such as it is, by giving Wulf's old buddy a mystic thingamabobber that can purportedly defeat Mordel Mak Moriak. Alas, you never actually see the thingambobber on panel until the second-to-last page of the story in one really awkward-looking panel, which seems to suggest a last-second script re-write and a paste-up job to give a fill-in issue a bit more oomph.

On the minus side, oh lord, the art...

Wulf the Barbarian #4, p. 2

Wulf the Barbarian #4, p. 2

This is the splash page of Wulf #2. You can see what Jim Craig is going for — an action-packed scene of chaos as Wulf dramatically drops in from above. And in theory that's a great idea, but Craig's composition is terrible.

Ideally, the first thing you should register on the page is Wulf dropping down from the sky. But Wulf's importance is diminished by the caption boxes that are placed over his cape and sword, which make him seem subordinate. No attempt has been made to separate Wulf from everyone else through the inking or coloring so he's just another figure in a sea of many.

Instead, your eye lands smack-dab in the middle of the page. Not necessarily a bad spot, but all of the lines of action drag your eyes in different directions. Wulf's legs want to drag you down and to the left, the bandit he's kicked pulls you to the left off the page while his horse pulls you off to the right, the splash of pink on the female figure pulls you down while the gaze of her horse pulls you to the left. As a result there's no clear focal point and the composition just seems off.

And the staging is just terrible. Where are these characters in relation to each other? What kind of environment are they in? How is it possible we're looking down at Wulf and those tree roots to the right, but up at everything else? Damned if I know. Tight close-ups can lead do some powerful action sequences but you still need to create a sense of space and place.

Overall, probably the most disappointing issue in a disappointing series.

More Letters

Larry has instilled in Wulf qualities quite uncommon to your everyday barbarian... He's done this without skimping on story. Each page has got more than the average number of panels. That means not only more scripting, but more art, too. Larry, obviously, is not afraid of hard work (maybe that's why he's got so many friends). Sharon Lependorf, Margate, NJ

Remember kids, more panels equals more story. That is why my next comic will only be one page but have 10,000 microscopic panels. That way you can't feel cheated even if it costs $9!

However, there are a few things that need some clearing up. About Wulf's planet: How many suns? How long are the days? How about the longevity of the planet's inhabitants? David Payne, Edlorado Springs, MO

I should add these to my review criteria for fantasy comics. "Oh, sure, it's got colorful characters and crackling dialogue and a brisk take-no-prisoners approach to pacing, but it never resolves the important questions — like the average lifespan of a troll."

I hope you and your cronies are having as much fun producing Wulf as I am reading it. L. Dixon, Drexel Hill, PA

That word, cronies, I do not think it means what you think it means.

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