From the first page, it’s clear there’s going to be something special about Werewolf by Night. The narration tells us we’re in modern Los Angeles, but artist Mike Ploog visualizes it like an old Universal horror movie set. The architecture, anyway; the accruements are all modern.
The page has three panels; the first two have a figure stumbling through the “mist-moistened” city, and the third reveals the figure—our narrator—to be a werewolf. And, wow, does Ploog draw a great wolfman.
The following few pages are werewolf action, running from the cops, dispatching a mugger; lots of movement, and lots of narration. Then the action cuts to Jack Russell waking up from a nightmare on his eighteenth birthday. Outside being a California beach stud, he’s a traditional Marvel protagonist with a lot of family drama backstory; his mom is married to a rich asshat, and he’s got a little sister (from actual dad, not stepdad). Something is going on with dad’s chauffeur, a brute who apparently has the run of the place, and the whole scene just gives Jack bad vibes.
The comic’s set over the three nights of the full moon, the second interrupting Jack’s birthday party. Writer Gerry Conway gives Jack a lot of out-loud monologuing (versus thought balloons); all those self-exclamations also contribute to the Marvel hero feel. The werewolf gets lots of thoughts, but they’re somewhat disconnected from Jack. It’s very dreamy, and a great success thanks to the Ploog art.
The story brings in Jack’s tragic inciting incident for his “Marvel hero” origin, complete with flashbacks to the old country where we discover his real father was a werewolf too. And he really had a Wolf Man-style experience. The comic uses that movie’s “Even a man who is pure of heart…” poem (no credit to Wolf Man or writer Curt Siodmak, Marvel’s gonna Marvel).
In the present, Jack discovers an insidious plot going on around him, which the werewolf is all too happy to unravel with its claws. In other words, fantastic action finale. Ploog can draw the hell out of a fight scene.
It’s not just about his figures and action, however. Ploog’s also got these wonderfully expressive faces, all the drama playing out over them. It’s a gorgeous comic.
And, if you’re reading it through Marvel’s digital offerings, it’s just a great Marvel origin comic for Werewolf by Night. But Marvel Spotlight #2 (in print) has a Venus reprint by Bill Everett.
It’s an eight-pager about Venus discovering a mysterious thirteenth floor in an office building infested with a swarm of murderous gargoyles. When she tries to tell the cops about it, they call her a silly girl (even though she’s always been right in the past).
Everett’s art’s good—it’s not quite good girl, but it is a glamour girl as superhero (well, ixnay on super, she’s given up her god powers)—and the story’s engaging enough. It’s a bummer Marvel doesn’t include it with the digital copy of Spotlight #2.
To be sure, the Werewolf by Night feature’s enough, but the backup’s a fun, quick read.