Werewolf by Night (1972) #4

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It’s a better issue than last time but still far from the Werewolf heights. The issue’s enough to stop the free-falling, though; if only Marvel gets someone who can ink Mike Ploog’s pencils. Frank Bolle does the job here, and, while better than Frank Chiaramonte, he’s still not great. The werewolf at least looks scary, and the faces are better; they’re less Ploog-y, however. The cost of competent inking is apparently the personality.

But there’s also not much personality in the story either. It opens with the werewolf on an abandoned movie backlot, some great white hunter out to get him, then flashbacks back to last issue’s cliffhanger; Wolfman Jack has rescued sister Lissa, who’s unconscious, and is carrying her away to safety. When the werewolf puts her down, she wakes up and realizes it’s Jack. There’s also a bit about her fear she’ll become a werewolf, too; along with the silver bullet vulnerability (this issue might be the first to show it), the family genetics curse is a lot different in the new Werewolf ground situation. Jack’s not just a werewolf; he’s a Satanically cursed soul.

Oddly, the issue has none of that crap in it. Conway gave it up just a month and a half later.

After the werewolf runs off from Lissa, the great white hunter kidnaps her, then waits for the werewolf to change and kidnaps Jack too. He’s been following Jack, having searched him out when he realized there was a werewolf. The hunter’s name is Joshua Kane. Conway writes him like George Kennedy from Cool Hand Luke but rich and evil; it’s so fun to read characters written like actors but not in the desperate hope of casting them in the role. Ah, the seventies.

Anyway.

It’s an all-action issue for at least two-thirds, with Kane hunting Wolfman Jack through this abandoned movie backlot. Mostly they stick to the Old West street and the fantasy castle. The setting seems like a better idea than it plays out, partially because the hunt’s not particularly dramatic. Kane will release Lissa if he can hunt the werewolf; it’s left somewhat unresolved. At one point, there’s a massive exposition dump about Kane tracking Jack, which Conway left out of the villain reveal sequence. Again, though, it’s Marvel-style, so maybe Ploog didn’t pace it right. Or maybe Conway really wanted to do the big dump later on.

Whatever.

Werewolf started something special, quickly fell on its face, and is now picking itself up… maybe.

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