Werewolf By Night (2023) #1 Review

Black, White, and Redhead

There was initially a bit of confusion among fans about a Werewolf by Night one-shot dropping in late 2023. With its Jack Russel and Elsa Bloodstone team-up and creative usage of the absence of color (more on that in a moment), this comic seems designed to be perfect synergy for the Werewolf by Night MCU special that debuted on Disney+… last year. However, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the special, it’s seeing a bit of a resurgence, and not just the regular kind that spooky TV features get when they’re dug back up for Halloween. Werewolf by Night started streaming on Hulu (for a limited time) earlier this month, and the special will also receive a colorized release for Disney+ on October 20th and an “art of” book on the 24th. With the context that the Werewolf by Night is getting a renewed push this year, it makes a lot of sense why Marvel is releasing a comic now to capitalize on it with a comic sharing the same name and characters.

Elsa Bloodstone is the biggest reason I checked this issue out. She’s been one of my favorite Marvel characters since I first read her in Kelly Thompson’s Deadpool run and fell hard for the foul-mouthed monster hunter. Elsa fans  will be over the moon about the way Derek Landy writes her. Make no mistake: while the title is Werewolf by Night, Jack Russel co-stars with Elsa, and the book gives us narration from both characters. I love the way Landy compares and contrasts the pair through their inner monologues. Jack is self-serious, brooding, and poetic, while Elsa is goofy, devil-may-care, and blunt. The way the comic switches between both of their thoughts leads to some pretty funny bits. For example, when the two first reunite, Jack thinks about how Elsa’s beauty is the reason he overlooks her stubbornness, and that he could have loved her if he thought he deserved happiness. Then, we immediately cut to what Elsa’s thinking about Jack: “He smells of dog”.

Jack and Elsa also just have really great chemistry. We haven’t heard much about the two as a couple outside of Astonishing Tales: Boom-Boom and Elsa Bloodstone (the less said about that one, the better) and the end of the 2011 Legion of Monsters miniseries, but Werewolf by Night firmly establishes the pair as ex-lovers. The sexual tension is high, even though Elsa and Jack are reunited for business rather than pleasure. They both happen to be storming the castle of the nefarious Doktor Nekromantik with a common mission: rescue a young girl before Nekromantik can sacrifice her and unleash an ancient evil. The villain’s plot is by-the-book stuff you’ve seen a million times, but it’s really just set dressing for our heroes to banter while they battle things that go bump in the night in the spiciest manner possible. I particularly love the scene where they’re both captured, and Elsa comes up with a plan to turn the bad guys against one another. Without missing a beat, Jack instantly recognizes what Elsa’s doing and backs her up, and it’s just really cute stuff that shows how well Landy captures these characters’ voices.

Fran Galán’s art is perfect for this story. His penciling has this perfectly moody quality to it that’s paradoxically fun and exciting. He can capture the gloominess of castles in thunderstorms and rooms teeming with beasts just as well as he can render foreplay-like fight scenes. This trifecta of horror, action, and horniness isn’t something I’ve seen since 1999’s The Mummy, and I genuinely love this shit so much. That page where Elsa jumps out of plane after killing all of the vampires aboard and plummets towards the castle as lightning flashes in the background? Peak comics.

And then… there’s the way the issue is colored. The credits don’t list a colorist, so I’m going to assume that Galán is the one who did the coloring. The majority of the issue is in black and white, like an old Universal monster movie, with the exception of Elsa and little bits of red here and there. The mostly-monochrome art provides an aesthetic tie to the Werewolf by Night special, while also allowing Elsa to visually pop in every scene that she’s in even more than usual (Stuart Immonen was COOKING when he completely redesigned her for Nextwave). It’s an excellent shorthand for “Elsa and Jack are from two different worlds”, as Jack appears in color in the one scene where he appears to Elsa in his human form, but he’s in black and white when he’s a wolf for the rest of the issue. It all establishes an emotionally gut-wrenching final page that’s absolutely brutal in the best way.

I highly recommend checking out Werewolf by Night. If you aren’t already a fan of Jack or Elsa, you will be by the time you finish the issue. It’s an early Halloween treat that will have you howling for more.

By Quinn Hesters

Quinn is a vat-grown living advertisement created by the LEGO Company to promote their products. When he's not being the flesh-and-blood equivalent of a billboard, he's raving about the X-Men on Twitter.

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