The story of the Wolf-man and or werewolves in popular culture dates back to the late 1930’s at least in film. In literature, it dates back well before then. As such, it is difficult to find an original vehicle for the iconic creature. Leave it to TKO Studios to find a way to create a story using the werewolf character in a different venue. Writers Steve Niles and Salvatore Simone decided to mix the classic werewolf tale into the moody and violent world of organized crime. Thus we get something new, our first werewolf detective in Lonesome Days, Savage Nights.

First Day on the Job

Stu Manning had his whole life ahead of him. He had just started his dream job as a policeman. First week on the job, he was so excited to do some good. Unfortunately, a chance encounter with what appeared to be a drunk in an alley changed everything. When Stu approached the “drunk” it turned into something else. Something big, hairy, and mean. He had his service revolver knocked from his hand in the attack and took the brunt of the creatures claws. However, when his partner came upon him, he showed no sign of the attack and no sign of his lost revolver. Despite the story Stu told, his partner and the force would have none of it. For all his partner knew, Manning had allowed some drunk to take his gun and he was laying in the fetal position in the alley. Not quite what he wanted on his first encounter with trouble.

Results of a Bad Day

But that was not the worst of it. The ridicule and negative stories being told about the incident basically forced him to quit…in shame. Just like that his police career was over. Before it really even began. If that was the only result, it would be bad. But it was not. While no evidence was shown of his attack, the beast that had found him had left its mark.

Although, unlike the werewolf stories everyone was familiar with, Stu was not limited to changing only under a full moon. He could change whenever the situation called for it. The problem was controlling the monster when he let it loose. Fortunately for Stu, he had a secret weapon. Her name was Audrey and she was his world. No matter what happened, Audrey was there to support him. Even when she found out about his “condition.” She was the only person who could keep him in check. His better Angel. He would be dead without her and when he got the chance, he would ask her to marry him.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Why is it that whenever something good is going to happen, something else seems to get in the way. In this case, Stu was waiting for Audrey to get home from work. She was a waitress and he couldn’t wait for her to come home. He was ready to “pop the question.” But as fate would have it, she happened to be walking down a street where a local crime boss had ordered a hit. Audrey had nothing to do with the person they were after. She just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. It happened so quickly that Stu, who had been watching her walk toward their home, didn’t have time to do anything but watch. In a matter of seconds, Audrey was down on the street with blood streaming from multiple gun shots. Stu raced to her, asking her to hang on. But she knew that this was the end. She died in his arms and just like that, his one tenuous anchor to life was gone.

Trying to Move on

Once Audrey was dead, Stu didn’t know what to do. His private detective gig, that he had taken at the insistence of Audrey, no longer mattered. Nothing did. Although that didn’t stop people from trying to reach out. That would include Detective Ray Richie. He had been working on the 3rd Street Devils. The local gang who was involved in everything from murder, extortion, drugs…you name it.

Richie knew that the gang must have a high profile backer seeing as how their weapons, and equipment seemed to be upgrading. But he could not get the police force to be willing to back him up. So he came to Stu for assistance. This was not the first time Richie has asked Stu for help. Stu had refused then as well. And the fact that he now knew it was the same gang responsible for Audrey’s death didn’t help. But Stu was in no mood to get involved. He had to get out.

Audrey to the Rescue

In fact, he had pretty much reached his end. Without Audrey, he had no real reason to go on. But it would soon be over. A gun pointed into his mouth would close the curtain on his misery. Except for one small thing…Audrey would not allow it. She appeared to Stu and told him that he needed to pull himself together, and start putting his abilities to use…and find her killers. Was it a dream or was he finally going mad? Regardless, his mind was swimming and he needed some air. So into the night he went.

Letting the Demon Out

Without Audrey to help him control the demon, he decided to let it loose. Just in time to see a man slapping his neighbor Stacy who was with her small son. That would be bad news for the man since Stu’s better Angel was no longer there to rein him in. And he had some pent up anger to let out. The man had no idea what he was up against and the carnage left was not a pretty site. The girl was horrified by the attack but not so much in the results. She took the dismembered man’s Rolex off his wrist all the while covering her young son’s eyes. No need for him to see such things…at least not yet.

Stu returned to the now roped off crime scene in his normal form. Richie was on the case and he informed Stu that the victim had been Crime Boss Big John Sala’s only son. Uh-Oh. Sala was involved in just about every criminal aspect in the city. He was thought to be untouchable. Well his life was touched now. Actually, it was clawed. Nothing good would come from this. And Stu was right.

Sala’s Revenge

Once Big John had seen his son’s remains, there was going to be hell to pay. Not just for whoever or whatever had killed his boy, but for others as well. He had lost his only son, and he wanted others to feel his pain. This meant sending his thugs to the apartment of the girl who had been with his son that night. She knew something. And whether she did or didn’t, they were to burn the place to the ground.

What Big John Sala wants, Big John Sala gets. So his men stormed the apartment building, looking for the surveillance tapes the building no doubt kept. They crashed into the manager’s office and retrieved the hard drives that contained the video of what had happened. As they moved through the building,  they soaked the floors and walls with flammable liquid and set it to burn. This of course set off a panic. Tenants ran to leave the premises, not caring who they trampled on their way out. But what Sala and his men didn’t know was Stu also lived in the building. He had just called Richie to accept his offer for assistance when he noticed the smoke starting to seep under his door. As he opened the door he saw the residents racing to the exits with no regard for anyone who might be trapped. But he could hear people in trouble.

Saving the Day

With the smoke and chaos, he decided that it was safe to transform. He did so using the beasts enhanced olfactory senses to lead him to the apartment…(if the screams in the room didn’t give it away). He broke through the door to let those inside out. Even in the smoke the parents seeing what looked like a creature ran out the door, leaving their kids behind. Stu gathered the two children up and ran for the exit. He was able to exit the building just as it exploded. However, he was smart enough to change back just in time. The parents were so happy to have their children they decided they must have been imagining things about his appearance when they saw him. Stu didn’t discourage them from that conclusion.

Bringing the Fight to the Devils

After that, Stu and Richie started bringing the fight to the Devils and through them, Big John Sala. But they were not the only ones on the hunt. Since Stu in his werewolf form had ravaged Sala’s only son. The need for revenge was mutual. This set off a series of confrontations that could only end in one of their demises. The resolution of these events I leave for you to read but needless to say, by the time your done, there’s room for more. And eventually, more is what I believe we will get. It’s not called the Manning Files Vol.1 for nothing.

Thoughts

I really liked Lonesome Days and Savage Nights. The story strayed enough away from the stereotypical werewolf story to make it interesting. While the aspect of Stu’s relationship with Aubrey gave the story enough gravitas emotionally to drive it in a sympathetic way. It would have been easy to make the creature a mad killer driven totally by instinct. I like that writers Niles and Simeone chose not to go that route. And the concept that Stu had some control of what the beast did. Kudos for that choice.

However, what really set this book up for success was the art work of Syzmon Kudranski. His art and color choices were outstanding and very atmospheric. Every panel was craftsmanship par excellence. Especially when he closed in on faces. Every emotion shown clearly. From rage to utter despair, which were reflected in the eyes of the characters. Those on their own were works of high art.

I do look forward to the possibility of the Manning Files Vol. 2. These are characters worth following up on, especially if Mr. Kudranski is involved. So if you want to read a different kind of werewolf tale, check out TKO Studio’s Lonesome Days and Savage Nights. It can be purchased in six book set or the trade paperback where all great comics are sold.

 

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