What happens when a Native American sheriff from 1872 is mistakenly transported into present day New Mexico? In RED WOLF, written by Nathan Edmondson, illustrated by Dalibor Talajić, José Marzán, Jr., and Miroslav Mrva, and consulted on by Jeffrey Verrege, we find Sheriff Red Wolf confused, but definitely not dazed, amidst crime in Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

Red Wolf is the first Native American Marvel character to have his own comic, which is no small feat. It’s even better that the creators include cover artist Jeffrey Veregge (a member of the Port Gamble S’Klallam) as a consultant.  No stranger to the comic book world, Veregge’s Salish form-line pop art shows how original and amazing comic book culture can be through an Indigenous lens (check out his work here!). He extends this style to the covers of RED WOLF. Although artistic collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists can be interesting journeys, RED WOLF has a lot of potential.

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Currently up to the third issue, Sheriff Red Wolf is aiding the Santa Rosa police force by tackling down drug offenders. He’s surprisingly in control, despite not being from the 21st century. It’s funny to see Red Wolf learning about relatively new inventions, including the delicacy of Styrofoam cups and the functionality of busted SUV’s. However, the story itself is unfolding rather slowly. The reader is left with too many questions and not many answers. Who is the villain responsible for Red Wolf’s time travel? What was he doing in 1872? Is the Mayor of Santa Rosa conspiring with those involved in illegal drug activity? And why are people being tortured and killed by snakes?

RED WOLF #1 Review

Although the pacing of the story is rather slow, the clues that the creators leave us are interesting, especially all the indicators alluding to manifest destiny, which was briefly mentioned in the first issue.

Manifest destiny, a doctrine from the 18th century, stated the inevitability of Westward expansion of European colonizers or pioneers. It claimed that the pioneers had a divine right to claim those lands for themselves. In many cases, “divinity” had no concern for the original inhabitants of the land. The effects of manifest destiny were horrific and devastating to Native people. Despite the effects of colonization, it’s crucial to point out the resilience of Indigenous communities.

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Themes of colonization are consistent throughout the first issues, including exploitation of the land and, mentioned for the first time in the third issue, the installation of a pipeline. In reality, these issues are pressing for Indigenous communities and have only recently surfaced through U.S. mainstream media, such as the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline by President Obama. This pipeline would have run from Alberta to the U.S., threatening the living conditions of various communities, including the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Which brings me to my next question, will Red Wolf meet with other Native American characters in Santa Rosa? It’s difficult to imagine him not, since it is New Mexico, which is home to a number of Indigenous Nations. If this doesn’t occur then the story will leave us in the rigid American imaginary, where all Native people live in the past – except for Red Wolf! Although it’s a bit premature, the absence of Native characters in the comic will also paint the resolution of the comic book as fake. If we learned anything from actual historic moments, such as the rejection of the XL pipeline, it’s that there is no one person behind it. It takes generations and various communities for any change to occur. If Red Wolf doesn’t collaborate with Native characters, then do we expect him and the police to solve everything? That resolution would be too easy.

RED WOLF Review

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Apart from the plot, the art is enjoyable, especially in the first issue. It was really great to see how the past and future clashed, not only through the characters but through the color palettes. The electric blue from the villain’s gun popped against the earthy browns and greens of the natural landscape. The changes in paneling in the third issue are interesting, they certainly highlight Red Wolf’s great ability to fight crime. Unfortunately, that is all we know about Red Wolf.

RED WOLF has a lot of potential to grow, both as a comic book and character. It’s exciting to see where the creators will take the story. Perhaps this comic book will be an example for other sorts of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artistic collaborations. It is still too early to tell.

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