Vertigo’s “Wolf Moon” twists the werewolf myth

If you’re writing a werewolf comic in 2014, it’s not enough to rely solely on the standard tropes rules of the werewolf myth. Vertigo’s new six-part series “Wolf Moon”, written by Cullen Bunn and illustrated by Jeremy Haun, attempts to revitalize the “man vs. beast-man” story by doubling down on all of the familiar concepts except one.

In the world of “Wolf Moon”, the only thing a werewolf bite does is kill you. Messily. The infection travels from person to person at random, without regard for physical proximity, gender or age. It might affect someone in Tampa Bay this month, and someone in Anchorage the next. The implication is that the infection has a will of its own, wearing each host like a costume for the three nights of the full moon and discarding them in the morning, naked, bewildered and vomiting up chunks of their victims. When the three nights are up, the infection moves on, leaving the ex-host to contend with what they’ve done.

I’ve read the first issue and I was entertained but unsatisfied. It tries to cover a lot of ground in very little time:

  • explain how lycanthropy works in this model
  • show why it’s even more terrifying/traumatizing than what we’re used to
  • introduce the main character, Dillon
  • make Dillon likeable / interesting / sympathetic
  • show the location and carnage of this month’s werewolf appearance
  • get Dillon to that location

Bunn succeeds on all points except for making Dillon interesting. He’s certainly worthy of sympathy, but at the end of 24 pages I really just think of him as a grim-faced conveyance for an under-used handgun. That’s not a great start for a protagonist, but it’s also not a fair assessment of a story that’s only 1/6th of the way told. After all, the writing is still strong. The chilling “werewolf lottery” concept is established with confidence, and Bunn sets up some familiar set pieces (transformation in a restaurant washroom, moonlight hunting party goes wrong) that Haun elevates with graphic (but not heartless) aplomb.

All in all, this is a pretty strong start to a series that has plenty of space to make good use of its ingredients. You can pick it up on comiXology or from your local comics depository.