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Dead of Night: Werewolf by Night #4

Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2009
By: Charles Webb

Duane Swierczynski
Mico Suayan, Ian Hannin (colors)
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Dead of Night: Werewolf by Night #4 arrives in stores tomorrow, April 1.

Plot: Tormented werewolf Jack Russell learns all about the sister he never knew while being held captive by the nefarious Babylon Group.

Comments: I wish we could put to death (at least for a time) the evil corporation with vaguely evil bio research initiatives. Whenever they pop up in popular fiction, I always have to wonder how they get financial backing with a business plan that consists of (a) make and/or control a monster of untapped potential, (b) torture said monster for much of its life in an effort to vaguely do something, and (c) express surprise when said monster totally freaks out and/or escapes to wreak havoc.

This template occurs in and around this final issue of the Werewolf by Night miniseries as we play catch up along with title character Jack Russell and learn about his sister's connection to the Babylon Group (even their name is eeeeevil). The corporation wants to afflict Jack's newborn daughter with his lycanthropy and control her as they did his late, older sister. Needless to say, Jack is unhappy about all of this.

Jack learns through his sister's blood memory (a convenient but nonetheless clever device used well at the end of the issue) about her tormented life and first transformation. Most of the issue is narrated by Jack (including the flashbacks of his sister's memories) and well… Jack's kind of a mope. The story in his sister's blood is a familiar one about paramilitary types working for shadowy big business working over some poor innocent soul. To hear Jack tell it, this is all terribly, crushingly sad, and we should empathize, but the familiarity of the plot makes it hard to muster an emotional reaction.

Even Jack's bloody attempt at escape and retaliation (which is gorgeously illustrated and features a couple of fun monster cameos) feels a little flat because the evil Jack faces has so little personality. It's a poor characterization of evil that is supposed to be banal in its purpose and actions but instead comes across as indifferent and lacking in personality. Jack's revenge doesn't really matter because Swierczynski hasn't made the evil he's facing feel like it matters in any way.

Special note should be given to Mico Suayan's heavily-rendered (in a good way) artwork alongside Ian Hannin's moody colors. In a way the palette reminds me of the luridly-colored comic panel sequences in the first Creepshow film: appropriate shocks of color in a world where the sun never seems to shine. Suayan's character work is very detailed without reminding the reader that there is an obvious reference somewhere. The quiet, conversational scenes all have good "actors" selling the emotions of the moment and the action segments are gory but not distractingly so.

Final Word: Almost worth it for the big monster-on-monster-on-monster rumble and the gorgeous art, the book is held back by its deadly-serious tone and worn-out story tropes.

If you liked this review, be sure to check out more of the author’s work at Monster In Your Veins







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