For the first issue, I didn’t have many kind things to say about Night of 1,000 Wolves, on account of the characters being nonexistent, the plotting less than that, and the horror being of the cheaply-done haunted house variety. On the other hand, Dave Wachter’s gorgeous artwork managed to be the Tom Savini of cheaply-done haunted house scares, conjuring up some really good imagery and a misty sense of place for the generic Scandinavian setting despite working with the comic book equivalent of a $10 budget and one trip to the party store the night before the grand opening.
In a two page sequence on pages sixteen and seventeen, Wachter builds up a real sense of mood, which approaches the closest this mini-series has come to suspense thus far, as the nuclear family from last issue (down one kid whose name I don’t remember) have managed to escape to a fort, with a whole assortment of archers staring down the wolf army. As the wolves come out of the forest, first in an eerie march before breaking into a full-on viking charge, the townsfolk all focus on the horde. Naturally, we’re focused on them, even as one sees “something”–another werewolf–in the woods just past the advancing army, only for another werewolf at the corner of the panel to sneak up over the wall behind them. It’s a really clever Carpenter moment that Wachter uses to establish just how screwed these people really are, even if instead of building on the wolves’ tactical advantage to increase the tension it just cuts to more gore, gore, and gore on the very next page.
That right there is the problem, though: the gore. And I’m not against gore in a Jack Thompson, “this is bad for children” way of thinking about blood and violence, because like any other red, white, and blue-blooded American, I have an appreciation for violence in art. What I’m not big on is violence that is done senselessly and without impact. Superman snarling “Burn” at Mongul before unleashing the heat vision in For the Man Who Has Everything? Cathartic. That scene in The Dark Knight where Batman drops Sal Maroni? Shocking. Cutting through a large swath of zombies in Dead Rising 2 with that Servebot helmet that has a lawnmower blade on top? Entertaining. Seeing a random guy no one seems to care about get torn up in a battle with werewolves? Doesn’t do anything for me, though I tend to prefer scares that get into your head and make you uncomfortable (Silent Hill 2, the classic horror films of Carpenter, Romero, Cronenberg, that sort of thing). Even the daughter getting chewed on last issue didn’t really impact because she was barely a stock character before WHAM! wolf food. Compared to the cannibal, and his bear traps, Attila Futaki drew in Severed or the grisly body horror of Yanick Paquette’s Swamp Thing (both series written by Scott Snyder), Bobby Curnow’s snappy-paced spattering just doesn’t hold up, even with Wachter’s art. For me, the scariest image in this issue was a two-page splash of the family and some townsfolk out in the hills, full moon in the sky and the wolves racing towards them: mainly, that scene had an eerie contrast between the white moonlight–which is large, ominous, and bleeds into the setting as if Nagbre (the “wolf mother” that commands the beasts) herself is seeping into the very environment from beyond–and the torchlight of the humans–yellow, small, and barely illuminating the surroundings. It makes clear that the forces that these people are struggling against are far bigger than they are, which is scarier than a beastie leaping out yelling “Boo!”
What’s sad is that a large number of creator-owned titles like this, in some effort to keep up with the Big Two’s highly marketable events and cape comics, have limited themselves to easily-digestible formats that are all about filing the serial numbers off of other works and slightly adjusting the nouns, making “indie” comics interchangeable from their “Hollywood” cousins. It’s how we get titles like Peter Panzerfaust, Jack Avarice is the Courier (which wastes a good title), or Werewolves on the Moon Vs. Vampires. It’s marginal art that sometimes has major talent.