Giant-Size Werewolf #3 might be artist Don Perlin’s best… oh, wait. He just penciled. Sal Trapani inked. Perlin was penciling and inking over in regular Werewolf by Night at this point. Okay, never mind. I mean, it’s okay art—especially for Perlin—but it’s nowhere near as impressive with someone else helping out. Especially since my biggest compliment was Perlin doing a nod to Mike Ploog’s Topaz every sixth panel. The other five panels aren’t good (people’s noses change shape, or their eyes move up and down on their heads between panels in the same scene). But there seems to be an attempt at a Ploog nod.
Maybe it’s coincidence.
But Perlin does better with the Eastern European Universal Monsters village setting than he ever does in L.A.
The Werewolf story is thirty pages, the bulk of the issue but not considerably longer than the reprint backups (four, five-page stories). The feature comes with the caveat the first chapter is a red herring to fill pages. Jack, as the werewolf, goes back to his family castle off the coast of Monterey. Writer Doug Moench goes overboard with his adjectives and adverbs here, including variations of Monterey. It’s a lot.
He (Jack) thinks Topaz is being held prisoner there; only once he completes the level, he finds out—rather anti-climatically—she’s actually being held in another castle. His family’s summer villa back in Transylvania. After a brief chat with step-father and uncle (I just realized Werewolf is Hamlet with a happier family situation), Jack and seventeen-year-old sister Lissa are off to the old country to find Topaz. Lissa wants to go because it might have to do with the Darkhold, and she’s been about to turn eighteen for three years and over two dozen comics. It could happen anytime. Birthdays are weird in the Marvel Universe.
They get to the airport and run into Jack’s best friend, forty-something Buck Cowan, who the comic goes out of its way to imply is way too touchy-feely with Lissa.
In Transylvania, they discover the villagers are angry at a traveling band of Romani people. The band is hanging out at Jack’s family castle; only when he gets there, they’re not. Worse, Topaz is being held somewhere else again! Only this time, Jack’s going to werewolf-out to rescue her.
The story’s got some twists and turns and silly werewolf fights, but Perlin and Trapani aren’t bad when the action’s in long shot. And even though Moench’s obnoxious writing of Jack’s inexplicable narration (past tense describing things Jack doesn’t remember), the actual dialogue’s okay. It’s nice to have Topaz back, all things considered.
It’s a much better Giant-Size Werewolf than I was expecting. Not good, but not a waste either.
The backups are similar in quality. They’re all early fifties Atlas reprints, mostly without writer credit.
George Roussos has art chores in the first story about a creeping, killer mist. It turns out to be an inter-dimensional thing, kind of like Lovecraft. It’s decent throughout, but the finish is blah.
The second story’s much better, though, with a similarly blah finish. Written by Carl Wessler, with art by Pete Tumlinson, it’s about a suicidal eighty-year-old who discovers a magic spot in the river. It doesn’t drown you; it sends you back in time. He keeps going back, getting richer and richer (thirty-five years before Back to the Future Part II revived the trope), only there are bad guys after him. With a better ending, it would’ve been something.
Then there’s an all-horror killer rat story; art by Manny Stallman. A random guy happens upon a man talking to rats, and the rats understand him. The rat-keeper is planning on having the rats kill the guy until the guy mentions a rich uncle. It’s fine. Cute rats.
The last story has inks by Abe Simon and pencils by none other than Don Perlin, twenty years before he did the feature. The guys at a newspaper send a female reporter out to cover a strangler case, even though it makes her a target, and she doesn’t want to go. Once she arrives in the town, she immediately finds herself trapped by the stranger. Or does she?
It’s okay. The reveal’s logic is fine; it’s just too rushed.
All in all, a solid Giant-Size. Well worth the four bits.