By Bjorn Rule Lie & Co.
The inside front cover tells a tale on this one…. “The Wolf’s Whistle was originally conceived to be the first book in a series entitled “Behind The Tails” © Nobrow Press Ltd. Written as a collaborative effort between Alex Spiro, Scott Donaldson, and Bjorn Rule Lie”.
Seems a slightly strange collaboration between artist and publisher/designer and even stranger choice of words (“originally conceived”). It may just be me reading more into it than I should but that seems like there’s been some change between finished book and original idea.
However, there’s no doubting that it’s a good and interesting idea (although not a new one), taking an off-kilter look at the world of traditional fairy stories by going back before the ever so familiar stories and investigating the motivations of all the best fairy tale baddies.
The back cover promises to tell the tales behind the traditional old favourites: “How did Hazel make the transition from master patissier to child-eating witch?” and “from where did the troll acquire his taste for billy goat ragu?”
But here, in this first “Behind The Tails…” we’re in wolf and three little pigs territory. And Wolf’s Whistle takes us right back – all the way to childhood where we meet Albert, the poor but kind-hearted wolf-cub with a fondness for comics, particularly superhero comics and a dream of eventually working as an artist at Wonder Comics.
(Great double page spread of Albert and his friends – including, if I’m not mistaken, a lovely Kraftwerk Tour De France homage in that first panel. From The Wolf’s Whistle by Bjorn Rune Lie, published by Nobrow Press.)
Albert’s a lovely kid, and a gifted artist with a scholarship at a very posh school; “overrun by toffee nosed tigers and pampered poodles, arrogant elephants and spoilt hamsters“. Luckily he has his friends (“The Fearless Four”), but their lives are blighted by those three (not so little) pigs; the Honeyroast brothers, horrible bullies whose dad is “Al Prosciutto“, a mobster and property magnate who owns most of the city and a fair few of it’s officials as well.
The problems with the pigs only get worse for Albert in adult life, until eventually, something happens that’s so terrible he feels he’s got no option but to dress himself up and become “The Lone Wolf“, protecting his city.
(Three not so little pigs, and most certainly nothing like the fairy tales would have you believe. From The Wolf’s Whistle by Bjorn Rune Lie, published by Nobrow Press.)
And then, just as it’s started to get going, The Wolf’s Whistle just stops, with Albert putting on his costume (and there’s no spoiler there – it’s on the cover). No exploration of Albert’s newfound superhero status, no hint of what happened next, all of which makes the press release line of “Eventually Albert is forced to make a stand against his oppressors and fulfill his destiny as the crime-fighting Lone Wolf” a little misleading. Unless fulfilling his destiny is standing just once on a rooftop in the costume?
So just like I said at the top of this review – The Wolf’s Whistle was a good idea. But the execution really lets it down. Who knows, with possible further books playing the good idea out, it may turn into a good series. But this first episode is rather unsatisfying, ending before it really has a chance to go anywhere and we’re left with a very attractive, yet ultimately vacuous work.
But stepping back from the disappointment of the story for a moment, I must point out how very attractive it is – all told in a mix of comic imagery and picture book layout, with the sort of high production values you’d expect from Nobrow Press; attractive small format hardback, lush matt colour palette, high quality paper stock. Bjorn Rule Lie’s big headed animal characters are decidedly old fashioned, and coupled with the gorgeous matt colour palette in use, lends the whole book a real nostalgic, 50s feel.
The Wolf’s Whistle could have been, probably should have been a real winner. Alas, it’s a shame it falls short.