Where Brubaker and Phillips’ Fatale shows how horror comics can be done right, it’s only fitting that along comes an IDW title to serve as a nice little counterpoint. What it lacks in subtly and pacing it makes up for in banality and some admittedly pretty pictures. It also, more than a little, reeks of someone wanting to pitch a movie and deciding to use comic books as the method to do it; a popular ploy nowadays, like Cowboys and Aliens or the upcoming graphic novel Dinosaurs Vs. Aliens (only, minus Grant Morrison deciding to sneak in some more of his neo-Kirby tics).
Essentially a zombie-movie riff on werewolves, but with only one werewolf (so far) and a whole army of regular wolves, Night of 1,000 Wolves sees a rural Scandinavian family in a vaguely medieval era, besieged by beasts during a full moon. At the very least, artist Dave Wachter gives the premise its heavy metal gravitas, from his opening misty shots of fields and mountains, to the menacing silhouettes of the wolves lurking in the woods, and the panic of sheep locked in a barn– all of it coming across like something Dio, Mastodon, or various death metal bands would conjure up for a music video. Unlike his forebear, 30 Days of Night artist Ben Templesmith, Wachter understands that “dark” does mean “make sure the page can’t be understood at all.” Even though every plot beat and character moment in this comic is perfunctory, it’s a well-paced, gorgeously drawn perfunctory. For a few pages, Wachter even does something with paw prints that makes me think that he’s establishing a motif, which would have been nice touch for such a low-rent concept, but sadly it stays isolated to those few pages.
In spite of the art, and a premise so basic that all it takes is just a little flare of imagination to make it pop, the writing manages to suck like a Bissell. The dialogue only exists to transmit exposition or the basic relationships between patriarch Jonus (raving old man), his daughter Sophia, son-in-law Harrick, and the two children. Even in the latter case, conversations like when the children talk about blackberries and bears come across like Bobby Curnow is waiting to put the actual dialogue into a screenplay. How much you want to bet Lionsgate will be putting a movie out a year or two from now? Everything is set up mechanically: one character is introduced on page four, only to be wolf food by page six, which is supposed to be shocking just for the who and the what of it, but doesn’t register because by this point, we’ve only barely begun the story. The one bit of imagination in the proceedings is when the son explains some crucial backstory to his father, while in the sky a very godlike wolf face looms over them, but this is again Wachter asserting metal imagery. Like 30 Days of Night (which only used the idea of vampires in Alaska to do a boring slasher/zombie movie where you could barely see what’s going on), this is a three issue mini-series, and with the final page reveal, I have a feeling we’ve seen everything that Curnow and Wachter are going to show us for the remaining two issues already. There might be something about Nordic deities in there, but all it will be is pretext for a barely-invested commercial formula.
With a little tightening of the script and some closure in the antagonism between Harrick and Jonus, this could have been a nice one-shot. Probably would have been a forgettable one-shot that would only have a reputation for its artwork, but nothing that would wear out its welcome. Dragging this premise out for three issues, when Curnow has already established he doesn’t have anything to say beyond the movie pitch, already sounds exhausting.