Oh, no, is Werewolf by Night going to run off the rails this early? I’m hoping it’s just Gerry Conway burning out on the writing, though the Frank Chiaramonte inks ruin the Mike Ploog pencils too. Actually, the final art’s so de-Plooged, I wonder if he even finished the pencils. There’s occasionally effective art, mostly with the pacing, but it’s never good.
And the final fight sequence is terrible.
The issue opens some months after the previous one, if anyone’s keeping track of continuity, with Jack now living with Buck. It initially seems like Conway’s closing outstanding B-plots quickly; last issue they took the Darkhold to a priest, this issue opens with the priest finishing the translation.
Little does the priest know it’s going to unleash literal Hell.
Priest calls Jack, Jack drives out to see him, forgetting—as usual—it’s the full moon tonight and he changes while driving, crashing the car. By this very early point, things are clearly wrong with both writing and art. The human faces aren’t Ploog-y enough, then the werewolf is… bad. But the writing on the car crash is similarly bad, only without Conway having the excuse Chiaramonte might be inking it wrong.
Things go downhill from there, with Wolfman Jack heading out to the priest’s mission to discover an evil spirit has possessed him. This evil spirit was once a priest himself, and wrote the Darkhold in the Middle Ages. It’s a really, really bad, reductive history for the Darkhold—which gets passed around as a scroll until Jack’s dad gets it in the fifties or whatever, and then binds it. It’s too bad Jack’s dad had that binding hobby, because the Darkhold makes him a werewolf.
Meaning the Russell family werewolf curse is one generation old and is actually demonic possession. Satan himself wants Jack Russell or something.
It’s bad but maybe not spectacularly bad. It’s predictably bad seventies comics. Up until the bull-helmeted Roman spirit soldier from Hell shows up to fight the werewolf.
Alongside that silliness, Jack’s sister, Lissa, has an actually scary arc where she’s trying to get to the priest’s place only the evil spirit has filled the valley with flesh-eating fog. All the human figures are bad, most of the werewolf stuff is bad, but disintegration to skeleton scenes are all good. Too bad they’re not important to the story.
The comic ends on a cliffhanger where they forget how many nights Jack has wolfed out this month. It’s very obviously one, but they say it’s two. Not sure if that gaffe’s Conway or editor Roy Thomas’s fault, but they both have been doing bad work all issue so it’s no surprise.
I knew Werewolf’s art was going to get intolerable eventually (Don Perlin for the win), but I had no idea I’d have to sit through badly inked Ploog. And vapid, pseudo-Christian Satanic panic.