Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Jeremy Haun
Release Date: December 3, 2014
There’s something inherently terrifying about the concept of the werewolf: it represents a primal loss of control, of doing horrific things without the restraint or knowledge you’re doing them — the fear that you might become a monster through no fault of your own. There’s a valid reason that the wolfman has remained a compelling figure in horror for so long. That said, there’s also a reason why there are far more successful vampire stories than werewolf ones.
The werewolf simply isn’t as versatile a figure as a vampire, with its ruminations on sexuality, immortality and nihilism. It’s hard to imagine a Jim Jarmusch-directed deconstruction of the werewolf in the same way that he fused vampires and empty urban spaces in Only Lovers Left Alive. Remove that helpless loss of control and bloodlust in werewolves, and you basically have a superhero with fur. Wolf Moon, a new limited series by writer Cullen Bunn and illustrator Jeremy Haun, strives to add new depth to this small genre with mixed results, offering an interesting perspective on the werewolf while also running through some well-traveled paths.
Archetypes abound in this first issue: a man horrified at his lupine transformation; the grizzled monster hunter going about his task; the woman he leaves behind to hunt who disapproves of his dangerous lifestyle. (And plenty of gore, rendered precisely by Haun). It’s all a little familiar, though the dialogue notes the traditions: as Dillon, the hunter, goes to track the creature, his partner Cayce refers to him as “the great white hunter,” a knowing nod to a cliche. Coming from Bunn, whose creator-owned comic The Sixth Gun accomplishes much more by unraveling and re-assembling tropes, segments of Wolf Moon are disappointingly standard.
In this issue’s final pages, however, Bunn reveals an intriguing twist to the werewolf mythology that transforms this series into a much more compelling read — both in terms of Dillon’s character and the means by which werewolf infection travels. It lends a new context to events that transpired in the preceding pages, and helps explain the motivations behind a series of actions (as well as actions avoided). There are also hints of a wide-ranging and mysterious conspiracy working in the background.
The majority of Wolf Moon #1 establishes the boundaries and ground-rules of its world, nodding to the past while explaining how this work will deviate from it. “The wolf doesn’t just reshape flesh and bone…it reshapes lives,” Dillon says in the narration early in the issue. And while it takes a while to get there, this issue makes the case for the truth of that statement, and does so effectively.