Monday, October 3, 2011

Night Force (1982) #1

Night Force #1 (August 1982)
Single Issue
DC Comics

Supernatural teams have been a recurring element of DC over the years, from the unofficial Trenchcoat Brigade to the Shadowpact to the new Justice League: Dark. The first one to get their own series, to the best of my knowledge, was the Night Force, in the early 1980s.

Unfortunately, despite a creative team with a fair bit of cachet (Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan), this first issue was rather disappointing. Wolfman and Colan never really seem to gel, and my gut is that the blame for this lies largely with Woflman's script: the transitions between scenes are awkward, made worse by the fact that they often take place in the middle of a page with no indication, requiring you to puzzle it out.

There's also not enough going on in the story -- it's a proto-example of what would come to be known (and, in some corners, derided) as decompression. You get introduced to the people who will make up the Night Force, the Baron (the fellow looking over the others on the cover) says something cryptic, unseen bad guys say something cryptic... The End.

Not really worth it unless you're a big fan of Colan or Wolfman.

Edited to Add: I neglected to mention when I first wrote this up, but I find it odd that on the second page of this code-approved comic, two of the characters are discussing open marriages. I guess I hadn't realized how progressive times were back in the early 80s.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In The Service of Angels

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels (2009)
Trade Paperback
Dark Horse

What better way to kick off the month of October than with a Mike Mignola limited series? Especially one that's as good as In the Service of Angels, the first mini-series about Victorian supernatural detective Sir Edward Grey?

In short, the story follows Sir Edward as he tries to solve the mystery of several inexplicable deaths in London in the late 19th century. The murders are connected not just to one another, but also, it turns out, to a privately funded expedition to the East, and to the remarkable find the members of the expedition brought back with them. By the end of the tale, he's dealt with a medium, two cults, a Victorian deep sea diver, and even a disfigured prostitute or two -- everything you need in a good penny dreadful adventure. Add on a couple of additional shorter comics and a few annotated pages of sketches from the creation of the series, and you get a pretty satisfying read.

I wouldn't hesitate to call Mike Mignola one of the greatest creators currently active in the comics field; he's carved out quite a niche for himself with his pulpy action/horror hybrid tales, starting with Hellboy and growing to include the BPRD and the rest of the expanded Hellboy universe -- of which Sir Edward Grey is a part.

Beyond his own creative abilities, Mignola's got a good eye for talent, and he proves it again with his selection of Ben Steinbeck to handle pencils and inks on this series. Steinbeck is no stranger to the world of Hellboy, having contributed to BPRD and Hellboy Animated prior to his work here, and his art is as well-suited to a Mike Mignola story as Mignola's own.

I borrowed this trade paperback from the library this afternoon and devoured it, finishing it before I even got home. Highly recommended.