October 5, 2018

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Halloween Horror: Wolf Moon by Bunn, Haun, and Loughridge

Written by Cullen Bunn
Line Art by Jeremy Haun
Color Art by Lee Loughridge
Letters by Travis Lanham
Published by DC/Vertigo

The stories you know about werewolves are lies. They don't linger with one person until they die tragically. Instead, it's a force that inhabits a host, destroys their life, and leaves them broken. Unless you're Dylan Chase, who wants to destroy the force once and for all, or die trying. This is his story, and it's bloody, violent, and an entirely fun romp.

Usually, the person hunting the monster is driven for revenge by the actions of the creature, or perhaps as the physical end of a philosophical pursuit. In this case, the victim of the creature is also the creature itself, which I thought was a pretty cool twist on the premise. It means that Chase (a name that I wish I wasn't so on the nose) ends up on a quest that is both to redeem himself and to stop the murders. Which of those is more important to him? I think that's part of his internal struggle and part of why this works. And because theoretically, the force is done with him, Dylan doesn't have to do this. He could try to pick his life back up again, but he can't heal as long as this creature still exists--in whatever form it may take.

That alone would keep the story moving. But Bunn and Haun add multiple complications, including rival hunters (which keep Dylan conflicted--should he be happy if they succeed, or does he need revenge by his own hand for closure?) and another person who is stalking those who survive being possessed. Now Dylan is potentially attacked on two fronts, leading to a dramatic conclusion that ends in blood, death, and a sense that any crusade against a monster has a terrible cost.

Along the way, Haun draws some really cool scenes of violence. He's good at both showing and not showing, sometimes just giving us a body part, and at other moments we get a real visceral presentation. Lee Loughridge, who continues to be an amazing colorist, does a wonderful job of shading the entire comic, changing his background tones to reflect scene and mood. Here's a good example of what I mean:

In the page above, which is one of the first in the comic, Haun makes it clear that this creature murders at will, but instead of dripping with blood, the figures are clear, the attacks are clean, and what we don't see gets shown in the aftermath, which I thought was pretty cool (the severed gun hand, for example). The moon rises behind the creature, and the coloring is spot-on.

Later in the comic, the creature is wreaking havoc in a mall:

Now we get a bit more gory, with the wolf creature ripping a man apart, and by the end of the page, there's a bloody rib cage. But what I really like here is how Haun shows Dylan's flight. Look at that third panel, where he's at the top of the escalator, knowing the creature is going to come after him as soon as he's done with his meal. And by the end of the page, the hunt is back on! (And look at the dulled fluorescent lighting from Loughridge, too.)

These two examples are typical of the art style in Wolf Moon, which really understands how to adapt the feeling of fear present in the best horror movies into panels, using close-ups frequently, framing devices that are as creepy as possible, and making sure the monster shows up enough to make it worth reading, but not so much as to overdo it.

It also helps that Bunn understands the horror genre well (Harrow County is probably my favorite example) and know when to use the tropes. He's not trying to make the next epic comic story here--it's a horror book with one monster seen and another at the edges until a Big Reveal--but for fans of the genre, this is a cool little book that I enjoyed a lot.