Some Tales Never Get Old – a “Lone Wolf 2100 #3” Review

28539-932x1432Lone Wolf 2100 #3
Dark Horse Comics

Script: Eric Heisserer
Line Art: Miguel Sepulveda
Colors: Javier Mena

Dark Horse’s Lone Wolf 2100 #3 is a true gem in a field of 2016 comics that is both wide and deep. There is a heck of a lot of variety and diversity right now, more than I can remember in the past 5 years. Likely driven by all of the comic book content being mirrored in the movies and on TV, the industry is mixing up its old formula. And that makes it much harder for books to stand out, especially when it is not being published by one of the big two. One trick that never gets old is combinatorial creativity…that intermixing of old themes that still yields something delicious. Lone Wolf 2100 really does not do too much but modernize an old story for the 21st century. The creators just do it really well, and focus elements of the story on the more human elements than the action, yielding a wonderfully charismatic take on a classic parable.

Lone Wolf, or Itto, is an Android. A very advanced one, sort of like Bishop in Aliens, but also designed for very sophisticated levels of combat, like a mechanized samurai. He is on a mission to save a girl whose body holds the cure to a deadly virus. In classic Ronin style, Itto travels the world, trying to get the girl to a country where he has made a deal for her safety. Along the way he has to dispatch fools wholesale who think they can take the girl from him. In this issue, we get a bit of Itto’s back-story and how he came to be linked to Little Nose. Lone Wolf is a re-telling of the seminal series, Lone Wolf and Cub, created in the early 1970’s, and later published in North America by Dark Horse comics.

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Sepulveda’s art definitely grabs your attention when you snap this book open. The first page, which opens with a shot of the topside deck of a merchant ship, sets the tone. Look at the deck and LONE-WOLF-2100-3-03you’ll notice the intricate level of detail. Lifeboats, watertight doors, ladders that run both between full-decks and half-decks, safety rails, port and starboard running lights…it’s pretty damned amazing. He renders the exhaust smoke coming from the main stack in every panel with wonderful billowy curves that are equally detailed. Later there is a page where there’s a hail of gunfire and the ship takes extensive damage. It looks just as spectacular as any explosion in a Michael Bay movie. Water, shadows, explosions and fire…Mena’s wonderful color-work overlays Sepulveda’s line work excellently. There’s a nice bit of craft here exemplifying what happens when a perfectly matched penciler and colorist meet with a wonderful story.

And that story is nicely oriented around some very solid tenets of exploring human philosophy, albeit with a main character who is strictly not human. But as an arche-type, Itto represents specific pillars of humanity, and those are used by Heisserer to act as a foil against the rest of humanity, which is decidedly lacking in moral fortitude. The vignettes that show how Itto was chosen to be Little Nose’s protector despite not having been designed specifically for combat are wonderfully enlightening. A perfect backdrop to the delicate but deadly game of cat-and mouse execution that plays out in the main thread.

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This creative group has a huge set of shoes to fill. Re-telling one of the most important comic book stories ever told in the history of the genre…that takes a wealth of chutzpa. While I am not familiar with these creators, the story is solid and a good head above the norm and average. I love all of the small nuances and the wind ups to the main sticker-points of philosophy in this issue. While there is a lot here thematically that we have seen before (Children of Men, The Road, The Last of Us…this is kind of a big escort mission story), it is executed with polish and its own particular style. I wish that I had discovered this when its limited run started, but issue #3 was fine for a quick hop-on. And I’ll definitely keep my eyes out for this in trade format, where it should be a great read. If you liked Rai and enjoy a bit of Usagi Yojimbo, this should fall within your ballpark.

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