The downward spiral continues in “Who Needs The Moon?” issue 5

Todd McCullough’s spectacular werewolf graphic novel Who Needs The Moon? continues apace. Protagonist-turned-antagonist Ethan is dragged (or wilfully plunges) further into darkness in a deceptively simple fifth issue.

This issue is crossed with tragic ironies. It takes place almost entirely in the booking area of the local police station, but it sets in motion a plot to destroy the entire town, inspired by the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster (the victims of which are touchingly referenced in the issue’s preface). Ethan is physically passive for most of the issue, either comatose or restrained, and when he’s finally able to move freely, he’s already lost his agency and the ability to think rationally. Although he surely deserved to be locked up for his actions in issue 4, his presence at the police station actually puts more lives at risk than if he’d been free – including the life of the only person left in town inclined to care about him at all. But the most painful irony of all has to do with Ethan’s internal and external self.

McCullough gives werewolf fans the thing they usually want most –a graphic and protracted transformation scene – but he couples it with a deranged monologue that reveals the far greater mental contortions Ethan has performed in order to justify his actions, and perhaps even his entire post-change life. It’s unclear how much of this rant is a manifestation of the wolf’s appetites (in fact it begins before Ethan is really awake), but my feeling is that the wolf is only amplifying what was already there to begin with. There are many similarities to Ethan’s self-pitying interior monologue during the diner scene in the first issue, and despite his claim that he’s “always been concerned for others”, he doesn’t seem to spare a thought for Paulina, his most recent victim. The preceding issues appeared to show a good man struggling against monstrous impulses, but by the end of this issue, it’s clear that the good in Ethan has been gone for a long time.

As usual, the artwork is stellar, although the kerning and weight of the punctuation marks in the custom lettering font seem a little off. The colour palette is dominated by feverish emergency light reds that seem to super-saturate as the action unfolds. What I’ve come to think of as McCullough’s trademark streaky motion lines are used to great effect, particularly when mid-transformation Ethan suddenly goes on the offensive. The transformation itself (and subsequent gore) is rendered in close-ups that dispassionately push the reader’s face in the carnage they’ve been waiting for – carnage they will likely come to regret. Whether the perpetrator of that violence feels any regret remains to be seen, but I am increasingly doubtful.

Who Needs The Moon? is available through comiXology and directly from McCullough via Gumroad.