Werewolf by Night (1972) #23

Werewolf by Night  23

Reading this issue, I kept having to remind myself writer Doug Moench doesn’t want Jack Russell to sound like a jackass, quite the opposite. Moench writes Jack’s narration as a combination of hard-boiled detective, beatnik, and, I don’t know, Charles Atlas advertisement text. It’s the purest obnoxious surfer bro Jack’s gotten in two dozen plus Werewolf comics, and, wow, does it get old fast.

The last issue ended with Jack under arrest for murder; this issue opens with him fighting the return villain—Atlas (a disfigured movie star out to kill all those who contributed to his accident)—but then flashes back to the cliffhanger resolve. The series’s new useless cop character interrogates Jack, Jack calls Buck for five grand (in seventies Marvel-616, the cops set bail), and then Buck fills Jack in on the villain’s origin.

After countless accessory or inappropriate appearances (with Jack’s seventeen-year-old sister), Buck finally becomes integral to the issue’s plot. He wrote the script for the movie where Atlas got hurt and can narrate the flashback-in-a-flashback to Jack, saving his involvement for the end. I’m not sure why Moench wanted to pace it that way, other than Atlas busting into the apartment like Kool-Aid Man would have an extra jolt.

But it doesn’t.

Neither does Jack’s background transformation to Wolfman Jack.

The fight then catches up to the opening splash page, where the werewolf and Atlas are fighting in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Atlas also kicks the werewolf’s ass, which raises questions about why Jack wants Buck to shoot him with a silver bullet if he can just be beaten to death.

The Don Perlin and Vince Colletta art is just as bewildering as the werewolf rules, with Colletta inking a lot of busy little lines. He’s not adding detail, just noise, and killing any implied movement in the artwork. It’s an ugly comic.

If Jack doesn’t get some humility soon, this book will be even more of a slog than I expected.

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