Marvel Graphic Novel Wolfpack! – 1987 (Marvel Comics)

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TITLE: Marvel Graphic Novel Wolfpack!

YEAR: 1987

COMPANY: Marvel Comics

Writer: Larry Hama

Pencils: Ron Wilson

Inkers: Whilce Portacio, Kyle Baker

Colorists: Petra Scotese, Max Scherle, Glynis Oliver

Letterer: Joe Rosen

Editor: Ann Nocenti

Assistant Editor: Terry Kavanagh

Editor-in-Chief: Tom DeFalco

Back in 1982, Marvel Comics released their first graphic novel trade paperback.

These books were oversized (8.5 x 11)and would begin with Jim Starlin’s “The Death of Captain Marvel”.  Marvel Comics Graphic Novel would conclude in 1993 and while one of the most successful was The New Mutants (Marvel Graphic Novel #4) which would lead to a long running comic book series, one Marvel Graphic Novel that didn’t rely on any superhero abilities and focus on normal humans was Wolfpack!, which was featured in the 31st Marvel Graphic Novel.

Written by Larry Hama (best known for his work on “G.I. Joe”) and pencils by Ron Wilson, the graphic novel features the earlier work of Whilce Portacio and Kyle Baker.

“Wolfpack!” is set in the South Bronx of NYC.  The story begins with Lamarr and gang picking on Puerto Rican high school student, Rafael Vega.  Rafael has been telling people to not contribute to the DTK Protection Plan and now Lamarr and his friends are upset.

Rafael is pushed off a staircase and he gets hurt and he ends up bumping into a tall guy named “Slag” Slagley.  Slag notices that Rafael was in a killing stance, so to help prevent any problems, he helps Rafael mitigate the issue before the fight is ended by Dean Simpson.

As Rafael leaves school with his friend Samuel “Slippery Sam”  Weltschmerz, as they pass by the Burger Clown, they see Sharon and Wheels Wolinski (who would be responsible many, many years later for forming Occupy Avengers) and seeing Wheels, despite being in a wheelchair, taking on a thugs along with his pet cat, Nine-Tails.

As we see how the South Bronx is dangerous, as Rafael is heading to Sam’s father’s market to work, unfortunately someone robbed the market and hurt Sam’s father.  Sam has an idea who is responsible but is warned by detectives not to do anything.

Meanwhile, Rafael goes patrolling outside the city late at night and as he sneaks into an area, he is outwitted by an older man named Mr. Mack.

We learn that Mr. Mack, an African-American man who served in the Navy and was trained by a woman so that the secrets of the Wolfpack may be passed onto the next generation and thus Rafael is being trained by Mr. Mack in preparation to fight the Nine.

At first Rafael thinks it’s all fake but when Mr. Mack goes to introduce Rafael to the other members of the Pack and surprisingly, they are people he already knows, Wheels Wolinski, Slag, Sharon and another member is his good friend, Slippery Sam.

But when the Nine starts causing trouble by getting Slippery Sam locked up (and even trying to have criminals jump him), The Nine go on the offensive and their goal, to kill Mr. Mack.

With the battle between the Wolfpack! and the Nine is set to begin, what will happen to the pack?

If anything, this Marvel Comics Graphic Novel is rather interesting because it does showcase a New York before the Mayor Giuliani years and before the city was cleaned up.  A lot has been documented about New York in the ’70s and ’80s and in someway, “Wolfpack!” is definitely a sign of the times.

And reading the “Wolfpack!”, it almost reminded me of Barry Gordy’s “The Last Dragon” (without the martial arts and Bruce Lee references) and “The Warriors”.

But this graphic novel is more or less a setup for the comic book series and the story is primarily an introduction to the characters and background on Mr. Mack and the battle between the Wolfpack versus the Nine.

So, similar to “The New Mutants”, the first issue may not give you much detail on the history, if you want to know the history of the Wolfpack!, you will need to read this Marvel Graphic Novel first.

But for the most part, while “Wolfpack!” was a product of the time and an entertaining story by Larry Hama, because it was not necessarily a superhero story turned off comic book fans who were used to reading only superhero comic books, but for those wanting something entertaining, refreshing and new, would no doubt enjoy “Marvel Graphic Novel Wolfpack!”.


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