Marvel's new volume of Werewolf By Night provides an interesting debut. A reintroduction and, more accurately, a reinvention of the titular character who first appeared in Marvel Spotlight #2 in 1972, this new series follows a Native American teen named Jake who uses his birthright—his werewolf powers—to act as a vigilante seeking justice for his people on the reservation. It's an interesting new take on the character and a compelling story, but fans who are looking for a horror series or something that fits the tone of the original Werewolf By Night are going to come away disappointed on that front in what feels like a Hulk story with more fur.
Just to be clear: Werewolf By Night #1 isn't a bad comic. The issue is well-crafted in telling an engaging story and wastes little time in offering readers a solid overview of things. Readers are quickly introduced to the major players as well as the mechanics of Jake's werewolf situation. Jake changes into a werewolf at night no matter what phase the moon is in. However, like the Hulk, emotions play into his transformation, so Jake uses music as part of his method of control. How Taboo and B. Earl build the world Jake lives in is also very well done. Particularly accomplished is the careful inclusion of Native American culture as well as the casual racism faced by indigenous peoples. There's a moment in which white businessmen exploit Jake and a fellow Native American and refer to them as being of "sturdier stock."
The art, drafted by Scot Eaton and Scott Hanna with colors from Miroslav Mrva, is also fantastic. This is a beautiful book visually, with realistic art across the board—well, as realistic as one gets when dealing with werewolves. The colors specifically are a real treat and do heavy lifting in setting the story's tone, both in terms of Jake's life by day and his experience as a werewolf. Often an underappreciated element of comics, the work here truly sings and gives everything an additional dimension, especially when Jake is in his werewolf form. The only visual miss in the issue is the lettering. Joe Sabino does an okay job generally, but things appear a crowded in places, making the issue challenging to read at times.
It's a lot of solid, individual moving parts, but when they come together things fall flat. Even with the good story and lovely art, things just don't have much of a horror feel despite there being opportunities where they could. Part of this may be that the story is trying to not be overtaken with darkness too quickly—this is the first issue and the start of a new vision. But there's also something jarring about a werewolf story that feels upbeat, almost optimistic. Jake is just so pleasant and eager that it makes you wonder when the other shoe will drop, and not in a way that is driven by story. There's also the sense that this feels a lot like a Hulk story. There are moments when you expect Jake to break out a "you won't like me when I'm angry." Beyond that, the cliffhanger this issue ends on doesn't feel especially interesting.
Ultimately, Werewolf By Night is a fun read that offers some interesting and thought-provoking moments. It feels like a promising reinvention of the classic Werewolf By Night. There's enough here to encourage readers to come back for the next issue, but it may be too light for readers hoping for genuine horror or a monster story. It will be interesting to see where things go and realistically, that's what you hope a first issue does: draws you in and encourages you to take the ride. Werewolf By Night #1 succeeds on that front.
Published by Marvel Comics
On October 21, 2020
Written by Tabooo and B. Earl
Art by Scot Eaton with Scott Hanna
Colors by Miroslav Mrva
Letters by Joe Sabino