A few weeks ago I reviewed 'The Land of the Witching Hour' by Todd McCullough, a somewhat slight but attractive dreamlike fairy tale. Shortly afterward I learned McCullough had a second series running simultaneously to 'Witching Hour' that actually preceded it. The comic, which deals with a small town werewolf coping with the days leading up to a full moon, worried me initially as werewolves and vampires (who are also on hand) are as tired toys in the fantasy writer toolbox as Nazis, Frankenpeople, and the Z word. Upon review however, 'Who Needs the Moon?' revealed itself to be the more interesting of McCullough's two offerings, also imperfect but a story that seems to be steeping into something potentially fresh. At the center of the story is a the nameless Loner, an unremarkable looking man within whom lurks hidden lycanthropy. From the little we can gather about him, he drifts from town to town, to small burgs where nests of vampires have set up, with the intent of rooting them out as punishment for some past unelaborated crime against werewolfkind. While this initial issue isn't much more than tone setting and brooding exposition, one of its strengths is the characterization of the Loner. It's easy to imagine who he would be, unshaven, perpetual scowl, lighting cigarettes every other page, preferably on a bridge or on the side of a highway. Instead, the Loner is affably nondescript, living in a constant cloud of isolation and nihilism, but appearing to the outside world as harmless and even charming. We don't have our head held under his misery to drown, it's done more subtly than that, even though the book commits the potential sins of being largely internal monologue. There's things we don't understand about him yet and motivations to be discovered. The world-building is faint and scattershot as well, leaving a lot of blanks to be filled in but in a way that actually inspires curiosity and is the main reason I'll be back for a second issue.
The art fluctuates a little more than 'The Land of the Witching Hour' but does the job of storytelling strongly. The Loner is well illustrated and animated, more charismatic in design than the protagonists in 'Witching Hour'. The art is grimy and oppressive, well matched to the sleepy backwater tone of the story. The biggest glaring issue with the art is a number of sequences that take place at night, featuring dark art with black gutters. The art is so dark that much of it blends together, feeling muddy and indistinct, even hard to understand at times. It's possible this effect is intentional, trying to create a sense of disorientation in the reader, but for the most part it stands out as being a hinderance to the book's flow where some tidier color choices and some contrasting panel walls could bring everything into legible focus. Despite this, while 'Witching Hour' had more polished art and a more vibrant pallet, the art of 'Moon?' drew me in more, giving me a world I have more immediate interest in.
With 'Who Needs the Moon?' I begin to take a more pointed interest in McCullough as a creator. As a self-publisher, two series that are both written and illustrated by the creator is ambitious, and the kinds of stories he has interest in telling may have familiar set ups but seem to feature a good deal of personal vision rather than borrowing someone else's. With little more than tone to set up our story so far, there is no guarantee that 'Who Needs the Moon?' will be so engaging in the long run, but I am intrigued so far enough to say I will be back to find out.
[su_box title="Score: 3/5" box_color="#8955ab" radius="6"]
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