Werewolf by Night (1972) #1

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Werewolf by Night’s got a cliffhanger to resolve at the beginning of its first issue, which is awkward. Especially since writer Gerry Conway’s going to take so many shortcuts. He’s in a race to resolve everything, concluding in a breakneck single-page wrap-up, and he never gets a chance to setup Werewolf as its own book. Nevertheless, there are the vaguest hints; more on those in a bit.

First, the cliffhanger. We last saw Jack Russell, titular Werewolf by Night, turned to stone by a teenage mutant girl whose father had been doing experiments on innocent people trying to find a cure for her. They were going to use dark magic from the Darkhold, a book Jack wants because… some other villain told him about it.

This issue starts with the werewolf still stone and Jack narrating a recap. The gorgon eyes stuff doesn’t work on werewolves who turn back into humans. Just as Jack changes, his new pal Buck Cowan arrives. He’s chartered a seaplane, but before anyone can say, “I hate snakes, Jock,” the duo runs into mutant girl, her now paralyzed father, and their reluctant mutant thug.

It’s an entirely different take on the mutant girl than in the previous issue, which had her as tragically, sympathetically evil. The father surviving his fall is a weird and mostly pointless change. Also, the idea she got her father a new outfit and a wheelchair in the few hours since she’d turned Wolfman Jack into stone…. Conway’s going to end the issue with just as silly of a time twist too. I hope it’s not going to be a regular narrative device.

Since Jack gave the mutant girl his name in the previous installment, she just follows him back to the mainland, where she can threaten his sister, Lissa, and Buck too. Luckily, it’s the second night of the full moon, so Jack can turn and save the day.

But what if being turned to stone somehow cured him of his lycanthropy? Wouldn’t that twist be a heck of a series starter?

Speaking of the series, the hints at what Werewolf might be like when not resolving existing cliffhangers: Jack and Buck hanging out, Lissa too? In the previous installments in Marvel Spotlight, Conway avoided sister Lissa; talked about her a bunch, avoided her. Now she’s finally around. And Buck and Jack have a good enough rapport, with Jack trying to hide the furry alter ego from both his costars.

As before, the draw is the Mike Ploog art. The werewolf stuff is great, the human stuff is good—Jack’s an often shirtless action star now, with absolutely phenomenal hair. Ploog draws great expressions, great movement, but the hair is just out of this world.

The only time the art lags is with the mutant girl and her father plotting. Otherwise, even with brief family drama stuff (Jack and Lissa’s step-father is a complete prick), all the art’s magnificent. Ploog’s art enthralls, page-to-page, panel-to-panel.

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