Writer Ales Kot is the first writer you will see on Yellow Flash’s blacklist of several people in the industry whom he claims are pushing too many political narratives in their books as of recent. He also claims that this political agenda is responsible for a decline in sales. While there has been a sort of slump for Marvel and several books have been cancelled over the past few years, I feel that this sort of pandering might only be a small reason why comic sales from the bigger publishers like Marvel, are failing to perform. In any case, I’m going through the writers on this list in order to see exactly “how bad they are” or “how exagerrated these claims are.” I’m not really worried about the rest of the industry, as I’ve never had anything against colorists and can’t really judge an editor without being there to see the comic script in question.
So, here we are with Ales Kot. I of course checked out the man’s page and he seems like a reasonable fellow. Nothing strange about him, just looks like, you know – a comic book writer. Unfortunately, I don’t really have much here to go by other than one volume from a Humble Bundle that I purchased from Image called Wolf. I hadn’t had the time to read it before the ComicsGate controversy, so this gave me a chance to thumb through it (figuratively, I use YacReader) and give the work my honest opinion as a longtime comic reader.
Originally penned in 2015, Wolf is not one of the top titles that you’ll see on Kot’s main page. In fact, it’s a bit skewed towards the bottom, which means that he seems to feel recent works Days Of Hate and Generation Gone (Geez, could you be more political?) are a bit more necessary for readers. That’s fine, as we’re not all fond of our old material. I know there are stories that I would like to put behind me, as well as some that just refuse to die. Aside from all of that, Wolf isn’t really all that bad from a plot standpoint. It stars Antoine Wolfe, an African American supernatural detective not unlike John Constantine; who is literally blazing within the first couple of pages. Apparently, this incident was part of a hate crime. We also learn that our character fought toe to toe with other soldiers during the Iraq war and seems to have a bit of PTSD from it, which he struggles with. While you can see the obvious political sense here, it doesn’t really feel off-base from anything Vertigo was releasing at the time. Latter-era Moore also dealt with politics, just as much as Watchmen and V For Vendetta did in the golden days of that label. Then things start to get a little ridiculous when we find that the villain and man who set him on fire happens to be a rich, white older fellow who doesn’t look too far from the image of a plantation owner during the age of slavery in America. Despite all of that, there are some interesting occurences, like the vampire who has to live everyday as a young woman on the first day of her period as well as the villain’s daughter Anita Christ (great anagram there), who happens to be able to turn into a ferocious werewolf. Okay, so we saw that coming – but maybe not Freddy Cthonic, who happens to have Cthulhu as a face and share blood with the Elder Gods. Not a bad idea, Kot. So far, it almost feels like a supernatural buddy cop drama and could easily find it’s way onto television, Netflix or some other streaming service.
What’s more, is that Anita Christ happens to be a clairvoyant who can converse with her dead grandmother (until she is later sealed in a wooden box not unlike the Lament Configuration) and can also perceive things that normal humans cannot. Due to Wolfe’s last love affair, he can also do the same. It isn’t touched upon as to whom this woman was (there were only four issues here) but he didn’t seem to be too happy about this turn of events, and moreover, being immortal (which is why he didn’t perish from the blaze in the beginning pages of the book) which he described as something of a curse. Right before the big scene in issue four where the rich white plantation owner (because come on, he may as well be – the guy also owns a for-profit prison too?) decides that he wants to make a sacrificial lamb out of his daughter Anita, we also bare witness to a scene where our main man decides to take out his vengeance on a vampire who killed his previous lover, guess… a trans woman.
Alright, let me be perfectly honest here, coming from a man who has written gay, lesbian and bisexual characters of all sorts into stories just because he felt like doing so – this feels kind of forced. When I write my characters, it’s usually because a character basically comes to me and says they’re gay, straight or whatever. No big deal, no poitical agenda behind it. I just wanted to write a gay character or two because there are also gay people and I have gay friends. We have straight people and gay people in the world, no big deal. But when you have the main character as an African American (and yes, I’ve written many different cultures, some not even of this world into my books) then you make the villain a rich, white Caucasian stereotype of a southern plantation owner, plus throw Iraq War PTSD and transgender people into the mix, I’m more towards thinking that you’re writing about what you’ve seen in the media, rather than what’s actually coming out of your head. Some writers just turn everything off before they sit down to get a story or script together, and I won’t lie that even I have made some political points in my books (again, not in regards to race/gender) but this just kind of sounds silly. It’s almost like playing a game of “how many social stereotypes can you fit into a perfectly good occult-laden buddy cop drama?” Not that I mind the writing, as I thought it was well-written and noticed a lot of Vertigo at work within this Image book. If classic Vertigo lives on, it seems to be doing so through Image whether we like it or not. I mean, that’s just what those adult books offered, and they were very political. Look at Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan, for instance.
For Image, this doesn’t actually seem too off-kilter. It’s more or less what I’d expect, plus the book is rife with notable illustration and some rather fine color work. I won’t say that every page is amazing, as some rather dull, grey buildings appear from time to time, but it works. My opinion on this only comes from one volume and four issues, so those who’ve read more might have picked up on even more of these social stereotypes later on. I would actually sit down and read more of it, just to see where it goes and didn’t personally find it terrible – but I did definitely find it a bit ridiculous as far as the number of social issues being stabbed at one time in the book. I felt that many of these characters “just happened to be” one or more modern social terms, but very few of them ever felt authentic or believable. Also, these four issues just seemed a bit rushed. There was too much going on at one time, and not in a Preacher kind of way. This was more like a fast moving mess that enveloped into some sort of odd social justice soup I hadn’t expected. That being said, I’ve read far worse than this. Far, far worse. It’s definitely what you might call progressive in terms of politics, but so was Vertigo. This is a modern Image comic after all, and I’ll say that one more time – so the experience was totally expectable as a whole.
(Volume One, 328 Pgs – because Humble fucked up and gave me two copies of the book in one CBZ file)
More of Kot’s work can be found HERE (Image Page)