With tweens and vampires being all the rage right now in popular culture, I was fairly ecstatic to find Top Cow publishing a book about werewolves, and not the Paramore-grooving, Stephanie Meyer kind. Tracker #1 is a crime procedural first and a supernatural werewolf tale second.
Written by Jonathan Lincoln, Tracker #1 wastes no time introducing the key players, along with their relatively cookie cutter personalities. You’ve got your main character Agent O’Roark, the hard boiled FBI agent who allows his guilt of letting the killer go to overwhelm him. You’ve got Agent Jezebel Kendall, the no-nonsense female agent who is overworked and undersexed, as well as partners with our lead. You’ve got Agent Grant, the jealous co-worker who is more interested in impressing Agent Kendall than solving the case. And of course, you have the worried girlfriend of our main character that fears she is getting too close to a man that will surely get himself killed in the line of duty. Despite these cardboard cutout personalities, Lincoln is able to provide a solid narrative into which these characters feel at home.
The issue essentially follows O’Roark as he realizes the serial killer he’s been tracking for months is perhaps more than meets the eye (spoiler: a werewolf!) and he is a victim left bitten after a recent massacre perpetrated by the suspect. Had Top Cow not solicited so obviously that this book was about werewolves, and perhaps left it a bit ambiguous, Lincoln’s pacing leading to the slow reveal of the true nature of the plot would have been significantly more effective. In all aspects of his writing, the pacing is where Lincoln really hits a homerun. Though it’s not exactly a slow boil, he hits the right beats at the right times, carefully cluing in the reader about the story to come, while working in the guise of a police procedural. In fact, it’s not far fetched to say that some quick character name changes to the likes of Mulder and Scully wouldn’t be out of place.
The issue is relatively dialog-heavy, but not to the point of detriment. Lincoln avoids exposition, instead relying on the general familiarity most readers will have with the setup of the relationship between the characters. For example, instead of needing Lincoln to waste time on the history of O’Roark and Kendall as partners, I was able to just sort of fill in the blanks with what I knew from other stories with the exact same dichotomy between the lead characters. Perhaps that’s just me, but I found myself enjoying the use of stereotypical characters to tell an otherwise unique story.
The only real problem I have with this issue is the art. Artist Francis Tsai hardly delivers consistency, as some pages are spot-on while others suffer from severe perspective problems. His work is great when presented in a rather straight forward manner, but when he attempts different angles, like a top-down isometric view or close-ups with characters in the background, problems spring up like weeds. His watercolor-like coloring work is great though, many scenes are given an extra layer of atmosphere simply by his choice of colors. The very opening panel is laced with muted graytones that leads to an uncomfortable, haunting feeling, sparking a great hook into the first issue. Tsai seems to work better in large spaces; his splash pages and half-page panels are much more effective than long sequences of action or dialog focused talking heads.
In the end, fans of X-Files and the like should give this book a shot. Though it’s not the most clean cut or characteristically unique comic on the shelves, it seems to be giving way into a mini-series that if nothing else, should deliver a decent amount of gore and werewolf lore.