In the fourteenth century Eastern Alps, the Wolfsmund Fortress is a checkpoint at the St. Gothard Pass for travelers trying to move between countries. The fortress is called the “Mouth of the Wolf,” because all who enter don’t necessarily come out. The gatekeeper is a sadistic tyrant. He interrogations are comparable to the horrors and doublethink standards of the Spanish Inquisition. Travelers rarely have the happy ending they hope to find and beyond Wolfsmund. It gets eaten on the way.
Today medieval life is romanticized and made fun of to the point most people have forgotten about plagues, inequality, and violence. Wolfsmund paints a gruesome picture that with some creative licensing shows the era’s brutality. The first two chapters in this volume are about Hans and Eva, a married couple with a discernable age difference. Eva is a spoiled bitch. She demands that Hans purchase jewels he can only afford by selling information on rebels. They’re forced to flee over the border when Hans’ ploy is discovered, but in their escape attempt they finally find closure and love with each other only to meet a bloody fate.
The last two chapters are about Cedar and her daughter Jewul. Cedar abuses her daughter, but in an unyielding devotion Jewul loves her mother. In order to escape her impoverished life, Cedar conspires with a bishop to deliver an important message. She must pass through Wolfsmund, but her mission is discovered and Cedar finally realizes how much she loves Jewul when it looks like she will taken away from her.
Mitsuhisa Kuji is very skilled in creating tension and luring readers into false hope for the characters. It’s unexpected when any of the characters find a happy ending in Wolfsmund. Kuzi is very deliberate and creative with each character and how he doles out lots. They’re as varied as torture devices from that era. Some liberties have been taken with the historical context, but they are ignorable in favor of the engrossing story.
Readers will have a love-hate urge with the manga that keeps the pages turning, because it’s horrible to read about the character’s fates, but they’re fleshed out so well that one wants to learn more.
The art was drawn to please a male eye, but ample female bodies aren’t just drawn just for eye candy and they do have a place in the manga. What is really neat is how Kuji’s style is influenced by 1970s manga. Characters show traits from Leiji Matsumoto, Shotari Ishinomori, and even a little Osamu Tezuka in the lines. The retro innocent fell contrasts with the manga’s darker themes, but it works on a delightful dark level.
Wolfsmund is a well thought albeit violent story with awesome art.