Wolfsmund (vol. 1) by Mitsuhisa Kuji, translated by Ko Ransom
The top of this debut volume proclaims, auf Deutsch, “Poesie des Widerstandes,” or ‘Poetry of the Resistors.’ Poetry is certainly visible in the alpine landscapes and the swirling energy of the constant movement; most pronounced, however, is the tragedy of what happens across the panels in this epic new manga set in 14th-century Europe in what will later become Switzerland.
Welcome to St. Gotthard Pass, where an ominous fortress called Wolfsmund (literally, ‘wolf’s mouth’) controlled by a merciless guard, Wolfsram (‘wolf’s ram,’ with implications of both the beast and the violent motion), holds tight control over who will reach the other side and who will find their journey grotesquely terminated. Smiling with an open, near-angelic greeting, his victims’ first reactions are initially of relief: “He seems so kind” … but his inescapable verdicts prove satanic.
As inhumane as he is, Wolfsram is himself a servant to the reigning Austrian Habsburg (or Hapsburg, as many of us of a certain generation were taught) monarchy. Resistors against Lord Leopold’s oppression in the “three cantons with vested interests in the pass, Schwyz, Unterwalden, and Uri” have formed “The Eternal Alliance” and seek freedom at any cost.
Presented in chapters that highlight various daring attempts at passage, volume one offers three formidable adventures: a loyal knight hopes to deliver his Master’s daughter to safety by disguising her as his lowly servant; a “formidable woman fighter” seeks to deliver a life-or-death message to a comrade waiting on the other side; and the legendary William Tell and his son Walter endeavor to bypass the fortress over the seemingly impervious mountains. Wolfsram is an enemy like no other, but resistors will continue to seek freedom … which means more thrilling volumes ahead!
Parents beware: with so much unblinking gore and unrestrained cruelty, this manga is not to share with the kiddies. That said, the faint-hearted, too, should choose with caution. For the rest of you unshockable addicts, read on – graphic rewards await.
Tidbit: In case you were wondering about the cover’s introduction in German, here’s a translation: “In the early 14th century, a merciless guard stood watch over St. Gotthard Pass and no one passed the border without a thorough investigation. The impregnable fortress was called “‘Wolf’s Mouth.'” Ever so occasionally my German literature degree actually has practical purpose! Who would have thunk one of them would be for manga!
Readers: Young Adult, Adult
Published: 2013 (United States)