How do you write a worthy sequel to a (cult) classic werewolf movie that spawned a rogues gallery of generally putrid follow-ups? In the first issue of the officially licensed The Howling: Revenge of the Werewolf Queen comic series from Space Goat, writer Micky Neilson (no stranger to werewolf stories) doubles down on all the things that made The Howling a werewolf icon: creeping dread, brutal gore, characters making implausible but entertaining decisions, and multiple full-frontal werewolf transformations. The result is an experience so satisfying that it simultaneously redeems and obviates the seven other films in the series. This is the new Howling canon.
Werewolf Queen picks up just a few weeks after TV reporter Karen White’s dramatic revelation at the conclusion of The Howling. The first issue divides its time between Karen’s colleague Chris Halloran, who’s charged with murder, out on bail and having a hard time sleeping – and the titular werewolf queen Marsha Quist, who escaped the Colony with at least a few of her werewolf “brothers” and is now on the hunt for a valuable artifact.
Neilson’s script cleverly recaps the film’s conclusion for newcomers (and the forgetful) by serving it as part of Chris’s sweaty apartment-bound paranoia and confusion. The general public is either skeptical of or indifferent to the newly-revealed existence of werewolves, but Chris knows they’re dangerously real. He’d be happy to discuss the subject with the police or his KDHB co-workers, if only they would stop dying mysteriously.
Marsha, meanwhile, pays a visit to Vera, an antiques dealer whose stodgy outfit and shitty attitude made her my instant Comic Book Avatar of 2017. Vera deals in more than just antiques, and Marsha has some uncomfortable questions about one of these illicit transactions. This leads to a chase scene, a lovingly-rendered werewolf transformation and an accompanying monologue that all add up to pure horror cheese.
It’s good, the cheese. It’s very good. The last few pages of the issue would border on satirical nonsense both in setting and in content if it weren’t for the fact that it’s all so fucking fun. Any horror fan could look at the setup and predict the conclusion, right down to the jump scares, and what makes that such a delight is that Neilson and artist Jason Johnson know you know what’s going on.
They’ve been given a chance to revive a languishing franchise, and they’re already laying the groundwork for a direction that doesn’t involve Christopher Lee selling bad dialogue or werewolf castle orgies, but first they’re going to take a little detour through a literal horror funhouse. That’s what you came for, isn’t it? Arcane McGuffins, dress-shredding wolf-outs, snub-nosed revolvers, rotary telephones, gratuitous beheadings and all the best fashion of 1981? This stuff is a blast, and it’s this sense of smirking dangerous fun that makes this issue (and hopefully the rest of the series) work so well.
Available through comiXology right now (edit: as of June 16 2017 the issue is missing from Comixology. I’ve asked Space Goat to update me on its availability and will revise this post when I hear back) and in print on May 31st.
THE HOWLING: REVENGE OF THE WEREWOLF QUEEN #1 (of 4)
UPC: 711099797381 00111 (Covers A & B)
UPC: 711099797381 00121 (Cover C)
UPC: 711099797381 00131 (Cover D)
Writer: Micky Neilson
Art: Jason Johnson (A), Milen Parvanov (C)
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Cover: Kevin West (A), Yvel Guichet (A, C), Carlos Eduardo (A), Chris Summers (B), Anton Kokarev (B), Bill Sienkeiwicz (D)