Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Muktuk Wolfsbreath: Hard-Boiled Shaman

Before some kind citizen bought me the Vertigo Encyclopaedia (or as I call it, The Shopping List) my only method of tracking down these hidden gems were in the in house ads or "On the Ledge" columns in older books that I already had, or just trawling through the long boxes in shops that still have them. One advert screamed out at me: "Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard Boiled Shaman: a supernatural detective story set in the Siberian Wilderness".

"To the Longbox Valhallahan!"

After much rooting through the longboxes, of the comic shops of London Town, I managed to find... nothing! No trace of it anywhere, and thus I discovered that Muktuk Wolfsbreath is truly a bitch to find. Eventually, though I’m loathe to, I sought out the book shop wot lives in the internet and after about a year on a waiting list, the universe decided to spew up a few full sets at a reasonable price. I ordered and impatiently waited. The setting of the story is intentionally vague, but it’s safe to say it’s a long time gone. It’s reindeer skin and dog sled times.

Muktuk is a grizzled old Shaman, living in a yurt out in the Siberian wilderness, a sort of deer skinned John Constantine; a cross between Sam Spade, Doctor Strange and Grizzly Adams. Muktuk’s only real companion is his cranky (and generally slightly sozzled) animal spirit guide. Using his wits, general distrusting nature and all kinds of potions, lotions and hallucinogens, he gets himself in and out of some nasty business involving a mysterious ex-squeeze and some supernatural unpleasantness. Sensing a disturbance in the force, so to speak, Muktuk goes on the look out for the source of these nightmares, and bumps into the aforementioned old flame in a nearby settlement with a dark secret.

I like the representation of Magic in this story, it’s all psychotropics and talismans (talismen?) animal guides, and trips to the spirit world. The characterisations are a pleasure to read, it’s just a shame that there doesn’t seem to be more Muktuk available (though I’ll keep looking). The juxtaposition of the Film Noir genre elements and the tribal setting are a masterstroke that sit so well with each other that it makes you wonder why no one else has done it so successfully. To me it is much more effective than something like Northlanders, where I find the anachronistic elements detract from the story. The art is pitched at a great level, conveying the stark realities of living in the frozen countryside and the fantasism of Muktuk’s other world with equal aplomb (yeah, that’s right, juxtaposition and aplomb in the same paragraph. I’ve got a degree don’cha know).

Essentially what I’m saying is it's fucking good and it’s fucking weird. Catch it if you can!

Four and a half Shamonic Siberian Speedballs out of five.

**Update: I found another strip online. The hunt continues...