Tuesday, December 13, 2011

UNDERCOVER REVIEWS - The Black Wolf Vol. 2: The Demon Door

OPEN THIS DOOR

A Review of Calvin Daniels’ and Kevin Lee’s THE BLACK WOLF VOL. 2: The Demon Door

by Andrew Salmon



This second adventure of the Black Wolf from authors Calvin Daniels and Kevin Lee (Granton City Press, $13.99) places the masked avenger in a situation pulp heroes rarely find themselves in. And it is this distinction which makes The Demon Door well worth a look. But before getting into the meat of the story it’s best we address the question: Who is the Black Wolf?

Cast in the Shadow/Spider mode, the Black Wolf patrols the streets of the fictional Granton City, twin colts blazing justice. When not mowing down lawbreakers, the Black Wolf is Martin Dumont, mild-mannered substitute teacher and would-be painter. As this reviewer has not read the first instalment in this series, I can’t add much more to the origin of the character. The Demon Door does not contain an origin pause – so common in the pulp of the Golden Age – and so, aside from learning that Dumont has a secret lair, informants and is part First Nations Indian, not much else is provided for first-time readers such as myself.

As to the story, as mentioned above, the book pits a somewhat prototypical costumed vigilante against an adversary he is clearly no match for and the result makes for an intriguing read. The Black Wolf has had great success against criminals preying upon the innocent but what is a masked avenger of the night to do against... DEMONS! Yes, you read that right. Imagine The Shadow vs. Cthulhu and you’ll see where this book is coming from. Traditionally, pulp either pitted real world avengers against street crime or masters of mystic arts against spiritual baddies. The Demon Door takes a fresh approach by pitting a street level vigilante against the hordes of Satan and the results are exciting though not entirely satisfying.

Armed only with lead-spewing twin colt pistols, how is the Black Wolf going to stop Satan’s return? The early chapters of the book play this out to great effect as one does not often see the hero so completely out of his or her depth. Clearly unable to meet this supernatural challenge, the Black Wolf is forced to enlist the aid of a secret religious order and an ancient, mystical sword.

All the makings are here for a New Pulp classic, a must-read essential for any collection. However for all of its fresh, different approach, the reading of The Demon Door leaves a little to be desired. Tighter editing and trimming of at least a good twenty pages would have benefitted the tale greatly. The novel reads well enough as Daniels and Lee are quality wordsmiths, but the book bogs down somewhat with its secondary characters and a bit too much hand-wringing and head-scratching as the heroes prepare to meet the challenge of stopping Satan from ruling the earth.

The action sequences are good and, to repeat, seeing a Shadow-level character overshadowed (no pun intended) by the events sweeping his domain was very entertaining. This is a great story told a little inadequately. That last statement is not meant to disparage the duo’s writing ability as they do a serviceable job with the characters, action, a healthy dose of sex and a high body count. The result is an enjoyable, engaging read. Rather it is the quality of the plot which overshadows its execution.

The Demon Door is a worthy addition to the New Pulp canon. Almost, but not quite, a masterpiece, the novel puts a fresh spin on the Shadow archetype and The Black Wolf is an interesting character sure to captivate readers. Coming so close to brilliance with this one, we can only hold our breaths in anticipation of what Daniels and Lee have up their sleeves for the next Black Wolf escapade.

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