Characters Appearing: Buck Cowan, Elaine Marston, Lissa Russell, Philip Russell, Topaz, Werewolf By Night
Werewolf By Night #34-37
Issue(s): Werewolf By Night #34, Werewolf By Night #35, Werewolf By Night #36, Werewolf By Night #37
That's a weird premise. Buck wasn't injured by some kind of mystical threat. He was torn up by the very real Werewolf By Night, and his wounds are physical. So having him cured by mystical means seems cheap.
The set-up of this haunted house story is actually done very well. Moench establishes a very creepy scenario.
But as this drags out over four issues, it feels less like a story that is relevant to the title and more like a scenario that Moench thought up and is forcing into the series that he's writing. Hence the impetus of the plot being Buck's unrelated injuries. Also, having the main character in your haunted house story being a guy that already turns into a werewolf feels like overload, especially when the Werewolf is for the most part not effective against the spirits in the house or no more than briefly used as one of the menaces that the other victims have to deal with. Jack's lycanthropy is used similarly to Topaz's empathy and loss of her soul: as a device that the house uses to torment him with. Like, what's even the point of him being a werewolf in a scene like this?
An interesting idea is teased during this story, although it's not one that i liked. The idea is that Jack is faced with the spirit of the wolf that causes Jack's lycanthropy. The monk Aelfric wrote down the sins of a peasant into the Darkhold tome, and Jack's father and then Jack became possessed with that spirit which is really what caused them to turn into werewolves.
That flies in the face of everything we know about werewolves and even the fact that we've seen other werewolves in the series (and would eliminate any concern that Lissa could ever turn into a werewolf, since it's the spirit of a single peasant). So as i said, i didn't like the idea. But the whole thing turns out to be a false story anyway. I do wonder if Moench was considering going with that idea for real, since it's introduced as fact in issue #34 and not contradicted until issue #36.
I don't really have a lot to say about the plot itself. It's a haunted house story, full of strange happenings and tormenting of our protagonists. I did like the idea that the way out of the haunting was to restore a skull to a headless skeleton, but that gets dragged out quite a bit too, with the characters being extremely slow to pick up on the clues that are given to them, so they wind up just holding on to the skull and pondering it for a long time even though they'd already found the skeleton. When they finally do get around to putting the skeleton back together, it unleashes the friendly ghost that helps them fight against the ghost of Belaric Marcosa. But it's muddled because the friendly ghost is the spirit that was pretending to be the spirit of the peasant that was supposed to be the origin of Jack's curse (but he's really the spirit of a stage magician from the much more recent past) and because restoring the skeleton actually unleashes multiple friendly ghosts. It just seems like that could all be simplified quite a bit.
When it's all over, the fake peasant ghost donates his lifeforce to cure Buck, which, again, makes no kind of thematic or logical sense.
A couple other points of interest. Jack punched a wall last arc when he was angry about Buck's injuries, breaking his hand. So in this issue Jack wears a bandage in both human and Werewolf form, the latter of which is pretty funny.
Towards the end of the story, Jack is stuck in werewolf form but he retains his intelligence and, unlike the last time (see Werewolf By Night #20), he's able to talk while in Werewolf form this time.
This is just due to Belaric Marcosa's spells, and reverts when it's over. Jack isn't even supposed to be a werewolf at this point since it's not a full moon.
The series isn't over yet, though. Next issue will advertise itself as "A new beginning for the macabre moon-beast" but in truth it's not even that, since the supporting cast that we're saying goodbye to here doesn't even really go away.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Werewolf's hand is in a cast this issue, the result of Jack punching a wall in the previous arc. Because of that, i'm not placing any Werewolf appearances in between, including Marvel Premiere #28 (the Legion of Monsters issue). Of course it's possible that Jack just hadn't bandaged his broken hand yet, but that issue should fit just as well between Werewolf By Night #37-38. It's true that this arc shows Jack leaving for the northern woodlands and that's where he is again in issue #38, while Marvel Premiere #28 shows him still in LA, but either he could have returned or Marvel Premiere #28 takes place after the main story in #34-37 but before the epilogue. If you are tracking the moon cycle, note that the Werewolf's transformation this issue is due to the magic of the haunted house, and it's specifically not supposed to be a full moon at this time; it's said to only have been two weeks since Buck was injured.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Werewolf By Night vol. 2
Marvel and Doug Moench should be lucky Richard Matheson wasn't a comics fan--the entire story is lifted from his novel/film "(Legend of)Hell House". Belaric Marcosa is a rearrangement of the villain's name Emeric Belasco. If this isn't Doug Moench's creative low point, I don't know what is. And Bill Mantlo's plagiarism was considered horrible! We have FOUR ISSUES of it here!
The movie is highly recommended, by the way.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 13, 2015 8:13 PM
Note that at the end of this story, Topaz is still missing part of her soul. I'm more convinced than ever that Roger Stern intended Topaz's statement that Topaz was missing half her soul to refer to what Glitternight did but Gillis misunderstood.
Posted by: Michael | January 13, 2015 8:43 PM
Restoring a skull to a headless skeleton was also the climax to the "Chopper" episode of The Night Stalker, which would have been shown in early 1975.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 13, 2015 8:51 PM
This is the last appearance of Phillip Russell- Buck and Lissa make appearances after this but he just disappears.
Posted by: Michael | January 13, 2015 10:22 PM
Michael, having read through the whole WWBN series now, i agree that Stern must have been picking up on the unresolved thread of Topaz's half missing soul and that got lost in the transition to Peter Gillis.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 14, 2015 1:13 PM
That said, if Stern was heading toward an appearance by the Amazing Doctor Glitternight, i... don't know how i would feel about that!
Posted by: fnord12 | January 14, 2015 1:16 PM
Roger Stern could make The Amazing Doctor Glitternight work!
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | September 19, 2016 4:25 AM
The story is drawn, ballons and their texts included, like the horror comics from the 50s. Was that intentional, or just ugly?
Posted by: jti88 . | January 25, 2017 4:34 PM
Don Perlin began in comics in the late 1940s. When I was young I thought his work stiff, but I've learned to appreciate it: I like the fog effects in fnord's first extract, and that gargoyle over the doorway.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 26, 2017 4:57 AM
The different look of the epilogue is apparently due to the colourist. The GCD says #34-#36 were coloured by George Roussos (so the purple fog effect in panel 5 of the first extract might be his), and #37 by Diane Buscema.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 26, 2017 5:03 AM
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