Overview

Night #1-4

Review

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Night #1-4

Credits

  • Words: Troy Hasbrouck
  • Art: Buddy Prince
  • Inks: Buddy Prince
  • Colors: John Davis
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Jester Press
  • Price: $2.99 (1-3) / $3.99

Night from Jester Press  is one eye-catching offering from the borderline-underground scene.  For anyone lucky enough to have spotted one of its classic concept covers from artist Buddy Prince (anyone in NYC or thereabouts, or those who stumbled upon Jester’s booth at a con), they know of its instinctive allure, its irresistable presentation as a candy-colored  thing, a physical whimsical comic book .  It’s an independent mag that wraps together a small skein of 20th century genre standards including werewolves, vampires, hard-nosed detectives, street gangs, and cosmopolitan villains, and yet mixes them together with such innocent glee, the result can’t help but captivate.

Four issues in, three black-and-white, the fourth making the move to glorious Technicolor, and the book is like a living thing.  Writer Troy Hasbrouck and artist Buddy Prince move through adolescence with the first issue, then peak at puberty with #2, before coasting to a smooth and refined adulthood with the double-sized issue #3.  What comes in issue #4, then—the beginning of the series’ second story arc and the first to boast a surprisingly spry digital palate—is the wisdom of age, to be sure.

The series begins with Special Agent Voght, a blonde and immortal NYPD vampire-detective specializing in cases of a supernatural bent (but of course), as she hunts a seemingly out-of-control werewolf that spreads its carnage across the city.  Said werewolf, a destitute man named David Skinner, is in actuality hunting other werewolves, and he soon finds refuge with a local 80’s fashion disaster...er...I mean street gang, the Reds.  But the Reds have a war brewing with blood-thirsty competition the Phreaks.  Before you can shout “street fight!” the Phreaks are revealed as linked to the werewolf killings, Voght catches up with Skinner, and a literally “shadowy” mastermind moves to control them all.

So, super: the plot is definitely a mish-mash of pure guilty-pleasure sweetness.  Hasbrouck’s pacing is top-notch, moving the story with recognizable but never predictable rhythm.  His scripting skills evolve as the series progresses, though throughout it’s wonderfully cheesy and meant to be.  It’s not unserious, but it tries for a more classic John Carpenter or Larry Cohen evocation.  Hasbrouck’s caption box narrative, in the first two issues, proves overly wrought and ham-fisted, but by the third and fourth books he settles into a steady style, one that, while no less campy, reads solidly so.  The dialogue matches the pulp-camp aesthetic, though here Hasbrouck seems on steady ground from the start.  The story of Night is the primary factor to merely skip about during the first two issues but then explode high into the inky black sky upon the third.  In issue #3, Hasbrouck plain makes this book work, all cylinders firing, all levels leveled.  It’s one sweet comic, and should win over anyone undecided from the first two outings.

As for book four, it’s Hasbrouck’s little brainstorming masterpiece: he moves from werewolves to vamps as primary villains, and to mark the occasion (and the title’s move to color) he pulls out a big-big vampire gun.  So…Dracula, right?  Nope.  Hasbrouck smartly avoids tripping over the cliché trope of the good count and brings out Bram Stoker’s historical inspiration instead.  And once again, no, not Vlad the Impaler—but Erzsebet Bathory!  The lady who bathed in the blood of virgins returns to the modern world to prove she is indeed the vilest, meanest, toughest mother-f*#&@ of a vampire about.  It’s a fantastic beginning to a new Night tale, and an issue that’s got me hooked as a fan for life.

Buddy Prince is the boy behind the pretty pictures, a guy who manages to pencil and ink as though Eastman and Laird gone manga.  His characters have that TMNT stunted structure to their forms, expressions that are almost exclusively manga-inspired, with layout and composition that combine qualities of both east and west.  His art alone, being so much the distinctive 80’s small press thing that it is, will either reel in or cast away readers at first glance.  Myself, I found his art charismatic to the extreme, very dynamic, and very enticing.  It’s hard to read mainstream comics after a Buddy Prince book, the torsos suddenly too long, postures too languorous, so many mouths not properly angled into leering, protesting shouts.  His action is awesome, too, as attests the big throwdown inside issue #3, a 32-page marvel that keeps eyes glued to the very final finale panel.

Even better, his art gets better when swathed in John Davis’ digital coloring.  Inside the fourth book, Davis gets to shine as both the new series’ painter dude and also artist/scripter of that issue’s special 8-page back-up tale.  The color for the first half of the book is strong, a well-chosen overall design if nothing flashy.  The book looks far brighter than one would expect, but oddly that was a concern I had only in afterthought, my actual reading of the issue raising no alarms at all.  The second half of the issue, however, is phenomenal: the story moves to a discotheque-style club in full swing, and Davis smartly opts to show the ambiance of pure duo-tone high-glitz glare such a club would offer.  I’ve honestly never seen anything quite like it in a comic, the scheme and technique that Davis uses in this section.  But it works wonders for the story and it’s a sight I won’t soon forget.

Four issues in and Night is truly looking to hit its stride.  It's like watching the birth of a classic, from the very, very ground floor but then quickly, swiftly, up, up, up!  I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone cozy and uninterested in anything outside the mainstream, but for everyone else, who enjoys a little haphazard camp with their horror action-adventures, I can’t say enough about how much Night has made me smile the smile of the satisfied, because that’s what good comics made by passionate creators do.

###

P.S. - Issue #4 isn’t officially released as of yet, but you can try contacting Troy at www.jesterpress.com or www.myspace.com/jesterpresscomics and see if he can hit you up with the Convention Special edition of the full ish that I got.  He’s a sweetheart.  Go hit him.

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