Comics Features Reviews

“Wulfsbane #1” Is The Birth Of A New Supernatural Mystery

Another day, another homicide. Investigating murder is just a typical day in the life of police detective Jack Mulligan. This time, though, there’s something strange going on. A routine visit to a crime scene brings Mulligan face-to-face with a fearsome werewolf. If you’re a fan of supernatural stories, you may think you’ve heard this one before. However, in Wulfsbane #1, writer Aaron Jordan creates enough mystery around the beast to keep things interesting.

The debate on what makes a monster versus what makes us human is one that goes all the way back through literature and cinema. Here, Jordan turns the lens on the victim just as much as the killer. When the victim’s daughter Morgan reveals he was abusive, not only does this shift your sympathy, but it also creatives a motive. Can a true monster have a motive? Does the werewolf know the girl? It’s a clever way of humanising the killer and building intrigue. The fact that Morgan attends the same school as Mulligan’s son is surely a hint. As is the werewolf’s hesitation to attack the detective…

Throughout the story, Wulfsbane #1 blends elements of horror and detective fiction. The opening quote from The Wolf Man (1941) is an example of one of my favourite tropes: the ominous rhyme: Even a man who is pure in heart, and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.

Other memorable uses of this in classic movies and tv shows include A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Hush”. Each time, this technique introduces a supernatural threat with a creepy, childlike rhyme that unnerves the audience. It’s a great touch and in this case, it ties the story into werewolf lore.

Another fun horror easter egg (whether intentional or not) is the use of the surname McKenzie. In both Scream (1996) and Halloween (1978) it is shared by neighbours of murder victims, here it is the name of a detective.

Artist Thomas Muzzell, colourist Alexander Cutri and letterer Justice Wright help to visually reinforce the comic’s blend of genres. The cover features the key images of the detectives, the werewolf’s shadow and the victim on a bloody red background. Muzzell also uses classic detective movie angles such as a close up when Mulligan lights a cigar, alongside moody red and blue tones which reflect the atmosphere of the story.

I particularly enjoy the artwork of the werewolf on the final page. While its expression is fierce, its movement is almost balletic at the same time. It adds to the theme of monster versus man in the story and is a strong image to end on.

Wulfsbane #1 is a solid start to the series. I definitely have some questions about Morgan’s actions during the attack that I would love to see addressed in future issues. The mystery around the identity of the werewolf suggests some high stakes for Mulligan. I’m intrigued to see if Mulligan’s son is introduced into the story and the dynamic with his father. I could be wrong, but I’m invested now!

Do you love a mystery? Do you have a taste for the supernatural? Check out Wulfsbane #1 over at Wulfsbane Comics. Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!

About the author

Michael Dobbinson