Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter Review
Beasts, bullets, blood, and B&Bs. Neon Joe can only be the new twisted brainchild of Jon Glaser and his Delocated crew.
“Hi Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter.”
“Why don’t you think of me as Neon Bro, Sadness Punter.”
The story behind Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter is a little bewildering. In fact, it’s hard to not see it as some elaborate fever dream of Jon Glaser’s that is perpetually on the cusp of bursting. I had to keep reminding myself that this all wasn’t some wild practical joke just because of Glaser’s long gestating history with this “character.” Ever the alternative comedian, before one of Glaser’s appearances on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon (from over two years ago), he randomly decided to deck himself out as the flashy one-note fighter of the supernatural. This surreal character must have kept needling away at Glaser because he continued to return to it off-camera in the comedy scene. I even got to see Glaser do the character first-hand at Brooklyn’s Bell House years ago as he continued to “work out” this piece.
It’s kind of incredible that what always seemed like a running joke that the comedian was playing with himself more than anything else, has actually been turned into a television series (as well as a comic book, to boot!). However when you look at the other offerings that Jon Glaser and PFFR have brought forward, Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter weirdly perfectly fits in within the rest of their catalogue, with this acting as a fine companion piece to Delocated, The Heart, She Holler, and even Xavier: Renegade Angel. And that, fellow lycanthrope killers, is a very good thing.
The series kicks off with a sublime death scene of one of our favorite comedians turned movie stars turned superheroes (and also doubles as an incredible Delocated in-joke) that sets up the show’s simple premise with ease. Garrity, Vermont—but let’s just call it B&B Town, USA, okay?—is suddenly under werewolf attack and guess who they call in for reinforcements?
Neon Joe, the character—unsurprisingly—isn’t a stretch for Glaser by any means and is well within his enjoyable wheelhouse. He’s an uber exuberant, no filter, machismo cliché with Glaser taking to these attributes with unrestrained glee. He’s afflicted with tics (which I could not stop laughing at) and abbreving at an alarming speed, and even if this might be par for the course for him, you just can’t help but be happy watching Glaser running free in his own playground again. His ensemble might also seem pretty simplistic, but it’s surprisingly intricate with how much is put into it, right down to the bullet earring adorning him. Neon Joe’s introduction is one of the funnier Jaws subversions that I’ve seen. In fact, the entire series operates as a solid, modern Jaws allegory with Steve Cirbus (playing essentially his polar opposite from Delocated) as the police chief and voice of reason trying to work alongside Joe.
In spite of how ridiculous all of this is as Neon Joe’s Southern accent drawls on and he examines werewolf pubes, the show is shot with such a confident, stylized eye that helps sell all of this nonsense. A longstanding relationship has been built between John Lee, Vernon Chatman, and the rest of the PFFR crew with Glaser, and that degree of trust is clear here in the shorthand evident between everyone. They just know how to put out a polished, insane show at this point, whether it’s sprawling through a crowded Chinatown alley, a charming Misery parody (which is really, really fantastic), or navigating through a hacky sack massacre.
The series surprisingly even manages to add to the general werewolf lore in some interesting ways, such as the principle of shining an artificial moonlight flashlight on people that will reveal them to be werewolves being one such inventive idea. The topic is just a hair away from being overexposed in the way that other similar areas like zombies or vampires are, and Glaser and company make good use of this good will by bombarding the topic. As deeply silly as all of this is, you also can’t help but feel like Glaser spent a lot of time obsessing and daydreaming away about werewolves and how they work. That being said, part of the absolute joy of this mini-series is discovering that as much as this show is about werewolves, it is also most certainly not about werewolves (no further comment).
Like most good mini-series and pieces of storytelling that are delegated to so few parts, Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter genuinely builds up a compelling mystery with each passing episode. These installments wisely go out on exciting cliffhangers that make you hungry for the next episode, which is not only the right strategy for binging something like this, but also the series’ one-episode-a-night schedule. Regardless of these larger machinations around the show though, pairing the show’s extreme absurdism with actual intrigue is a great combination here with a sick energy fueling these episodes to their uncanny finish line.
As much as this show is a celebration of all things Glaser, it also isn’t afraid to give time to let its varied townspeople shine, which includes the likes of Scott Adsit, Stephanie March, and Steve Little (who seems to be everyone’s favorite punching bag these days between the double duty he’s doing over on The Grinder). These people work as a much welcome foil to the unbridled id that is Neon Joe (Werewolf Hunter), and him having their (reasonably) sane attitudes to bounce off of works well for the show’s dynamic. At times it feels like Garrity isn’t that far removed from Heartshe, with the old-fashioned, off-kilter flavor of the townspeople getting plenty of time to be explored, too.
All of this seems like the sort of thing tailor-made for a mini-series, with there being such a finite story here, but as we’ve seen with countless “limited series” before, if they perform well enough they’ll more than likely be back. Garrity might be safe, but there are always more werewolves and B&Bs out there, after all…
It seems like Glaser and company have a real hit on their hands.
This review was based on the first two twenty-two minute episodes of Neon Joe, Werewolf Hunter. The miniseries event begins airing on December 7th on Adult Swim, running Mon-Fri, at midnight (spooky).