Comic Book Review: “Wraith of God” (Empire Comics, Festival of Dread Special)
Welcome back to the Festival of Dread, The Splintering’s month-long celebration of all things God-forsaken and unholy.
Today we’re going to look at Wraith of God, a superhero book with a horror twist written and illustrated by Aaron Lopresti.
Set against the iconic backdrop of the American West, Wraith of God pits a mysterious, supernatural vigilante (the titular Wraith) against a clan of werewolves are terrorizing the frontier lands. The Wraith himself claims to be the embodiment of God’s wrath on Earth, and uses divine powers, smoke, silver bullets and other sanctified weapons to dispatch the beasts. He’s also a master of disguise and an expert fighter, both gunplay and hand-to-hand. The Wraith is accompanied by his steed Gabriel and a fetching young blonde named Esther, who joins forces with the Wraith after her beloved Jacob is killed in a fire.
Fed up with being methodically eliminated by the Wraith, the werewolf clan has converged on a town named Calamity in search of a magical relic that will grant them true eternal life. The Wraith and Esther are hot on their paws (kill me), while several new arrivals in town – a gambler, a dapper businessman, and a sultry redhead – are all connected to Calamity’s secrets.
The story is solid and well-paced. The action is fierce but the fights don’t overstay their welcome, and the Wraith’s one-liners manage to consistently skirt the cool edge of corny. I didn’t like how some of the key mysteries were resolved so quickly by the end, though the “big reveal” was pretty obvious. I would have preferred for the tensions to be stretched out for a few more books/issues for greater dramatic effect. This seems to be a common hazard with crowdfunded books, for whatever reason. At least WoG tells a complete, satisfying story, though.
To round out the book, there is also a three-page Garbage Man/Night Club short back-up story at the end. This is almost certainly intended to tie these characters together with the Wraith in a single, shared universe (that the creator currently refers to as the Lopresti-Verse).
As enjoyable as the story was, Lopresti’s artwork is the standout feature of the book. The Wraith himself looks really cool, as his exaggerated costume dimensions and the bold, black shadows cast across him make don’ just make him look menacing, but give him an air of the supernatural, as well. This was also a rare time where I noticed how well done the folds in clothing was illustrated, whether on the Wraith’s costume or the long dresses of the women in the book. On that, for my money, Lopresti may very well draw the most fetching ladies in comics, all without them having to be in a state of undress (though it’s still appreciated when it does happen – aesthetically appreciated, of course).
I’ve already noted how well the action is paced, but these scenes are high octane, engaging, but also show the viciousness of the enemies that the Wraith is hunting. The werewolves are all depicted with a classic look – huge, hulking, furry, but fierce. It’s worth noting that the proportions and musculature of Lopresti’s horses are also spot-on, which is a really important visual benchmark considering the subject matter and setting.
When I first saw Wraith of God hit Indiegogo, I thought it looked to be something akin to a mix of Batman and Ghost Rider fighting werewolves in the Old West. While reading it, I began to see elements of Darkman, Spawn, the Shadow… and then it all fell into place and I realized that the Wraith is a pretty unique character in his own right.
Not everything in Wraith of God landed perfectly with me, but it’s a great book, and it definitely has a place among my favorite independently funded comics. So much so that I almost immediately backed the follow-up, Wraith of God: Blood Hunters, when it launched in September, which is something that I rarely do. I fully expect a solid sequel, and the campaign (which you can visit here) promises more details on how the Wraith of God characters are tied to Lopresti’s Garbage Man and Night Club stories. Here’s hoping that there are a few more mysteries coming in Blood Hunters, as most of them in the first book were largely resolved by the end.
You can check out the latest campaign for Aaron Lopresti’s Wraith of God: Blood Hunters here.
Thanks for reading!
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