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  • atom | Male | Utah

"I have a lot of issues. . ."

I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, where I write comic reviews even though nobody asked me to!
 
It's October!  I love this time of year, even though in all the hustle-bustle of Christmas shopping, Christmas music, and holiday crowds it's hard sometimes to remember to keep the peaceful spirit of the season in mind. 
 
But THAT'S Wal-Mart.  
Here at Longbox Junk, we celebrate Halloween in October. . .I know, crazy, right?  
 
This year for the Longbox Junk Halloween review party, I've been taking a look at some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics with a supernatural twist lurking in my collection.  It's been fun so far, so let's keep the party going!
 
It's just NOT Halloween without a werewolf howling at the moon!  So let's take a look at a comic featuring Marvel's own Bronze Age Lycanthropic anti-hero, Jack Russell, AKA. . .WEREWOLF BY NIGHT!
 
AAAAAAAAH-WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!! 
 

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #11

MARVEL (1973)

 
 
COMES THE HANGMAN
SCRIPT: Marv Wolfman
PENCILS: Gil Kane
INKS: Tom Sutton
COVER: Gil Kane & John Romita
 
THE COVER:
 
I absolutely love this cover!  The transformation from man to monster reminds me of some of my favorite Incredible Hulk covers.  John Romita's inks bring out the best in Gil Kane's pencils.  I'm not usually a big fan of Kane's art, but this is probably one of my favorite things by him I've seen.  It's just a great Halloween horror cover!  Let's get inside. . .
 
THE STORY:
 
We begin our tale at an unknown location and in a laboratory of the mysterious organization known as "The Committee".  They have captured Jack Russell's father, Phillip Russell and are torturing him in order to discover the location of Jack.  Phillip refuses and the torture continues. 
 


IN THE MEANTIME. . .
 
In Venice Beach, Jack decides it's time to move out of his friend Buck Cowan's bungalow before his personal (and werewolf) problems become everyone else's problems too.  
 
He moves into an apartment complex called Colden House.  There he (and the reader) are introduced to several female neighbors, as well as the mysterious Mr. Coker, who likes reading books about the occult and werewolves (Dun-Dun-DUN!)
 
 
ELSEWHERE. . .
 
A masked character calling himself "The Hangman" saves the life of a young woman after she is attacked by a drug addict.  After killing the attacker, he brings the terrified woman back to his secret lair, where he claims to be protecting her from "evil" by keeping her (and several other women) in cages.
 
WHILE THAT'S GOING ON. . .
 
Jack manages to elude his new neighbors, who want to party with him, and make his way to the beach, where the full moon transforms him into The Werewolf!  He stumbles onto a group of young men partying on the beach.  Jack wants to avoid conflict, but they attack!
 
The Werewolf easily takes down the attackers, even though they outnumber him 5 to 1.  Inside the wolf, Jack keeps himself from killing any of them.  The police show up and The Werewolf flees the scene.
 
 
MEANWHILE. . .
 
In the Hangman's secret lair, the vigilante removes his mask and reveals his whole origin story to his newest terrified captive.  He was a young man who believed in good vs. evil, but when he went overboard killing Ratzi's during WWII, he was court-martialled and sentenced to prison for six years.
 
After being released, he couldn't find a job because of his criminal record and came to the conclusion that "The System" and all those within it were corrupt, and so he decided to fight back by becoming the costumed crime fighter known as The Hangman!
 
LATER ON. . .
 
As The Werewolf continues to elude the police after the attack at the beach, he runs into his sister, Lissa, and his friend, Buck.  As he approaches, The Hangman (who was patrolling the area looking for evildoers to take down) mistakenly thinks he is going to attack them and jumps down to their defense!  Lissa knows that Jack is the Werewolf, and she tries to stop the fight from  happening, but nobody listens and the Werewolf and Hangman go to it!
 
A brutal battle ensues between The Werewolf and The Hangman, with both of them taking a beating, but still coming back for more!  The police arrive on the scene and Jack convinces the Werewolf to retreat. 
 
 
BUT. . .
 
As the Werewolf flees through the city to avoid the police, The Hangman follows and manages to capture him with a rope, hanging him from a streetlight!
 
To be continued. . .
 
THE REVIEW:
 
Obviously, this comic is right smack in the middle of an ongoing story, but even so, it was a pretty good read.  The Hangman seems to be a bit ridiculous in execution, but his origin (man whose illusion of good vs evil is shattered by the reality of war) is actually interesting as an idea.  
 
Despite the somewhat weak villain, I really liked the rest of the story.  Like the cover, the storyline reminds me of something that might be found in Incredible Hulk in that the Werewolf just wants to be left alone, but everyone keeps attacking him and he's forced to fight back. . .which just makes people want to keep attacking him!  Marv Wolfman does a great job making the reader feel the frustration of Jack/ The Werewolf, and that's the best part of the story.
 
On the art side of things. . .
 
I have a confession to make.  I'm not a fan of Gil Kane's art.  
 
Look, I KNOW that he's a legendary comic talent that stands SO high on his pedestal of admiration in the eyes of some comic fans that my humble opinion doesn't really matter. . .and I'm not here to try and knock anyone off their pedestal, but I've always found his art to be a bit. . .basic.
 
THAT SAID. . .
 
I'm more familiar with Kane's work from Silver Age issues of Green Lantern.  The difference between his work there and here is like night and day!  Looking at the cover and the interior art here, and then comparing them to his Silver Age work, I think I can safely say that with a good inker, Gil Kane's art is actually pretty impressive!  
 
Please don't hurt me.  It's only my humble opinion, and I really don't have much of Kane's work to base it on!  Suggestions of issues or series to MAKE me a fan of Gil Kane are welcome.
 
Whether it's Gil Kane or Tom Sutton making it look good, this is one good looking comic!  The Werewolf is snarling and , a truly nasty looking creature of the night unlike some of the later issues of this series.  The opening splash page of Phillip Russel being tortured is just awesome in its creepy detail, and really one of the best splash pages I've seen in a while!
 

CONCLUSION

 
Even though The Hangman is a somewhat weak villain, this story is well written and engaging.  It ends on a cliffhanger that makes me want to see what happens next, so it hits a good mark in managing to draw me in even though it's part of a continuing storyline that I don't know what came before.
 
The art is dark, it's brutal, it's nasty.  For an artist I don't normally like, Gil Kane delivers on the promise of the awesome cover by throwing down some great horror visuals that I wasn't expecting in a mainstream Marvel comic.
 
Overall, this isn't the best comic I've ever read, but I really liked it.  If you're looking for some good Bronze Age Mighty Marvel Monster fun, then I can certainly recommend this issue!  
 
Up Next. . .
 
We've been on the Marvel side of the Bronze Age for two posts now.  
Let's head over and see what DC was up to with 1975's  Secrets of Haunted House #3.
 
Be there or be square!

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Welcome back to Longbox Junk, home of comic reviews nobody ever asked me for!

It's October!  That means trick or treatin', candy eatin', and horror comics in Longbox Junk!

What we have here today is part of Marvel's short-lived effort at a bit of a monster comic revival a few years back.  This particular one shot is one of a set of three (the other two are Satana and Man-Thing) meant to re-introduce some Marvel Monster characters back into continuity in order to form a supernatural "Legion of Monsters" team.

Well. . .as you can probably guess by this comic landing here at Longbox Junk, it didn't really work out.  Legion of Monsters made just a few appearances as a team (most notably in the notorious Punisher "Franken-Castle" storyline and their own 4 issue mini) before they faded back into obscurity.

BUT. . .

Just because something didn't take hold and ended up in the bargain bin, does that make it bad?  That's the sort of question I started Longbox Junk to answer!  Let's take a look a closer look at this little relic of a failed Marvel experiment. . .

LEGION OF NIGHT:

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT

MARVEL (2007)

 
COVER: Greg Land
 
As usual, before we get into the comic, let's take a look at the cover.  And what a cover it is!
 
Greg Land is a sort of divisive figure among comic fans.  He's got a bit of a bad reputation that I'm not going to get into.  You either like Greg Land's art or you don't.  I happen to fall on the "Like" side of the controversy fence.  
 
Controversial artist or not, I LOVE this cover!  It simply screams Halloween at me.  It's a pretty simple composition, but just look at the werewolf's feral face and reaching, clawed hand!  There's a feeling of depth and motion. . .a story moment captured in one image that is simply outstanding. In my extremely humble opinion, the cover alone is worth grabbing this comic from the bargain bin if you spot it.  
 
Now let's check out the two stories inside. Fair warning. . .if you're a Greg Land hater, just skip to the backup because he's on art for the opener.  Everyone in that's staying in? Let's do it!
 
SMALLTOWN GIRL
SCRIPTS: Mike Carey
PENCILS: Greg Land
 
The story goes like this:
 
A young woman named Rhona was born a werewolf in a small Alabama town, but learned ways to control herself. Shortly after her mother and sister are killed by self-styled monster hunters, she goes to the local bar, knowing they will come for her too.  While there, she has a chance encounter with a handsome stranger. . .the only person besides her family who has ever treated her kindly.
 
 
 
It isn't long before the group of "Monster Hunters" shows up.  One of them uses tarot cards to briefly reveal the monster inside Rhona.  She calmly accepts that it's her fate to die that night. . .
 
 
 
What Rhona doesn't know is that the handsome stranger is none other than Jack Russell. . .Werewolf by Night!  He's not going to just sit there and watch Rhona let herself be killed by amateur Monster Hunters.  He takes them by surprise as he transforms into a werewolf and goes on the attack!
 
 
As Jack fights the rest of the Monster Hunters, Rhona is caught up in a deadly struggle with the woman who read her tarot cards and revealed proof she was a werewolf.  Rhona realizes the only way she can survive is to fully release the monster inside her for the first time. . .
 
 
After the battle is won, Jack comforts a traumatized Rhona as she looks over the slaughter she was part of.  Jack tells her that suppressing the beast just made it worse, and he can help her.  They leave together.
 
 
The End.
 
Not a bad little story.  Very short. . .really more of a vignette than anything.  But it was well-written and engaging.  That said. . .
 
For a re-introduction of Jack Russell to Marvel continuity supposedly aimed at new readers, there wasn't really much of an introduction here at all.  The story is told from Rhona's point of view and looking back over it again, I realize that Russell's name isn't even mentioned once!  This is much more an introduction to Rhona (who I'm not even sure even appeared anywhere else other than here) than it is to Werewolf by Night Jack Russell.
 
Does that make it a bad story? No.  I liked it quite a bit.  It just seems like a strange story choice for what's supposed to be an introduction.
 
As for the art.  It's Greg Land.  In the eyes of some comic fans, no matter WHAT he does it's not going to be good.  I'm not one of those fans.  I like his realistic style and I don't really care if he photo-references.  If you don't like Greg Land, you're going to hate this.  I didn't hate this.  Taking an honest look at just the art and leaving the artist's reputation out of it, I say it's pretty good.
 
NEXT!
 
TO BE A MONSTER
SCRIPTS: Skottie Young
PENCILS: Skottie Young
 
There's a backup story in all three of the Legion of Monsters one shots spotlighting one of the supporting characters of the team.  In Satana, it's The Living Mummy.  In Man-Thing, it's Simon Garth: Zombie.  In this one, it's Frankenstein's Monster. . .er. . .The Monster of Frankenstein.  Not sure if that's a copyright thing, but it doesn't sound right for some reason.  But I digress!
 
The story goes like this:
 
Our story begins long ago (it looks like maybe the story is set in the late 18th Century) as an escaped prisoner flees for his life from the men hunting him.  He stumbles upon a church in an abandoned town and seeks sanctuary, only to meet a fate. . .
 
 
In a neighboring town, local clergy have gathered to decide what to do about the false priest luring and killing people using the mask of the church to carry out his nefarious deeds.  It is known among them that one of their number hides a powerful monster in his own church. . .a monster that could be used to destroy the false priest.  
 
The priest who hides the monster protests, insisting that the creature has come to know peace through and has put aside his old violent ways.  He is commanded by his superior to set forth the monster upon the false priest. . .
 
 
 
The Monster reluctantly agrees to take the task given to him and leaves for the church in the abandoned town.  Inside, he finds evidence of gruesome experiments.  He discovers a journal and begins to read. . .
 
 
The Monster discovers the tale of a Doctor McCauley, who fell from good standing by using and furthering the research of the Monster's own creator, Doctor Frankenstein, to bring life to corpses.  Disgraced, McCauley left for the wilderness, where he poses as a priest in order to lure victims for his continued experiments. . .
 
 
As the Monster reads McCauley's journal, the false priest confronts him. . .along with several of his creations, more powerful than the original Monster of Frankenstein by virtue of having been created with freshly-killed bodies.  The Monster informs the mad scientist that he has been sent to end him.  Upon hearing this, a brutal battle between the Monster and McCauley's creations begins. . .
 
 
 
After defeating his creations, the Monster kills McCauley and sets fire to his laboratory before returning home.  The priest that had hidden him shows remorse for sending the Monster to kill again and begs for mercy, but the Monster kills the priest and leaves. . .knowing he will never have peace as long as the church knows where he is.
 
 
The End.
 
What a great little story!  As much as I enjoyed the opening Werewolf by Night story, I very much preferred this one.  Skottie Young does a great job writing (I know him more as an artist) a dreamlike, thoughtful tale of mankind as the monster.  Like the opening story, this one is very short, but seems longer because there's quite a bit more meat on the bone.
 
Like I said above, I know Skottie Young as more of an artist than a writer, but I'm used to a more cartoony, whimsical, humorous sort of art from him. . .so the art in this story took me by surprise as much as his writing did!  It's dark and twisted. . .adding to the heavy, dreamlike nature of the story and perfectly complimenting it.
 
The final full-pager of the Monster leaving yet another false sanctuary is a stunning portrait that I'd really like to have a poster of and is a fine piece of Longbox Junk Halloween fun!
 
 
Overall, I liked both of the stories in this one shot, but found the backup to be superior in almost every way to the main feature.  If you are a horror comic fan (and aren't a Greg Land hater) then do yourself a favor and keep an eye out for this little Longbox Junk gem in the bargain bin.  You won't be disappointed.
 
Up Next. . .
 
MORE Longbox Junk Halloween fun.
 
Be there or be square!

- read more

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