Pullbox Reviews: WereWoofs, Vol. 1 – Get the Scoobies together, we’ve got a mystery to solve!

In the small Midwestern town of Howlett, navigating high school is tough enough. But when a group of friends are inexplicably turned into weredogs, adapting to their new powers proves to be even tougher. This leads to an unlikely friendship with loner Mara, a werewolf whose father has mysteriously vanished. As the high schoolers team up to solve the disappearance, friendships are tested, and secrets are revealed as the Werewoofs prove themselves in an explosive showdown against a dangerous wolfpack and their vicious alpha.

Ever see a dog wandering around and you just get the urge to pet it? Well be careful! Even dog lovers need to aware that there may be packs of werepooches out running around, confused and possibly a little put off by the fact that they were bitten by a poodle and looking for a shin to bite. This is the world of WereWoofs (volume 1), and I’m gonna tell you all right now, it looks nothing like what Underworld led us to expect.

Mara’s father is the unassuming pack Alpha, trying to make a living at the local dog food production plant. Sure, it’s not what you might expect from a werewolf honcho, but Romy is trying to lead his people in a more sustainable direction. See, in the past the werewolves have been all growly and primal but are now trying to live a more peaceful life among the humans they used to hunt. The loudest (and whiniest) voice against this new approach comes from Romy’s nephew Zev, whose father used to lead the pack. Zev resents what he sees as a servile way of life, working whatever nine to five jobs his people can get to fly under the radar. The problems start when Romy mysteriously disappears and Zev claims that he was left in charge of the pack.

Do we see where this is heading? Good.

The story created by Brandon Perlow & Paul Mendoza and written by Joelle Sellner isn’t so much about werewolves as it is about whether it’s better to fit in or to stand apart. A savvy reader will start to see that, as in most things, there’s always a middle ground that falls between passive & aggressive… but stories that take place in that zone don’t tend to be all that interesting. Everyone gets along and things just work out. Boring.

Driving this particular story, we’ve got a cast of characters made up of all the expected stereotypes. The hook is that their traits aren’t arranged in the way you might expect. Alvern, the jock, is new to the school but not to being “the new kid”, having been bounced from town to town after a family tragedy. There’s the “Mean Person”, Lorenzo, who spends most of his time shooting off snarky jibes and horrifying his twin sister, the much nicer Isabelle. The innocuous Jae fills the role of the academically challenged nice guy, whose parents ride him for good grades while forcing him to spend his time working at the family business. Leading the pack is Mara, a loner who recognizes the signs when the kids are bitten by infected stray dogs and start to experience changes that go far beyond what puberty usually brings.

Writer Joelle Sellner does a good job balancing the moving parts of this off the wall Breakfast Club, giving ample room for representation and entertaining dialogue. These kids don’t immediately get along, and the circumstance of their sudden social gathering is more than a little comical. Mara taking on the role of guidance counselor to the new group of werepooches is a nice nudge toward the leadership role we know she’s destined to take, and the interactions of the group is handled with a smooth touch. Despite my own problems understanding why a pack of werewolves would let Shaggy (Zev) jump in and take over leadership during the downtime on his gig solving mysteries with the Scooby Gang, Sellner’s pacing and bantering dialogue keeps the story moving.

“Zoinks, like, seriously man… Romy said I was in charge!”

The artwork for WereWoofs was the first clue that this wasn’t going to be a standard werewolf story. Val Wise uses a pretty mellow, more cartoony style that works to keep the tone light, even through some of the darker story elements. However, while the look may indicate a younger target audience to some, that isn’t necessarily the case as we start digging into the disappearance of Mara’s dad. Taking a gander at some of his other work, it’s plain to see that Wise has a gift for hiding darker and more adult themes in a style that looks like it’d fit in a children’s book at first glance. Where I thought Wise’s touch really sold the book was in the more subtle sight gags and the way he casually/humorously anthropomorphizes the lycanthropically challenged kids.

The lettering by Ed Dukeshire is, as always, completely readable and without a hitch. I’ve recently read a comic featuring a more high profile group of characters, and was reminded of why lettering matters. If a reader has to pause to figure out what direction dialogue is going, where the emphasis is, or even who’s actually speaking at any given time, that’s a miss. Dukeshire saves all of the flare for when it’s needed, and lets the reader settle into the story without having to decipher left from right.

I’d have to say that WereWoofs might not be for everyone. There are readers who just like their character tropes more trope-like, and who just want to read more punchy explodey comics. And that’s fine. But if you’re looking for a different spin on werewolves… also, werepoodles & werepomeranains… full of characters that represent a broader cross section of the world we live in, this book might just be the one for you.

Just try to get past that whole Shaggy pack alpha thing… cuz I still am.

Final Score: 10/13

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