A few months ago, I read an interview over at comicbookresources with creator Dan Brereton. I was familiar with Brereton's artwork thanks to the DC Elseworlds tale, Batman: Thrillkiller. But I apparently missed his pride and joy: Nocturnals, whose follow-up, The Dark Forever and Other Tales, was recently published by Image Comics over the summer.
Nocturnals began in the mid-90s and follows Doc Horror, brilliant scientist turned mob enforcer, who fled his home with daughter Evening (a.k.a. "Halloween Girl") and built a refuge for creature misfits. Bandit, part-mobster, part-raccoon; Polychrome, a shapely wraith; Firelion, a sword-wielding firestarter; Starfish, a not-so-little mermaid; and more outcasts join Team Horror as they battle mad scientists, vampires, and Lovecraftian beasts. The stand-out character is The Gunwitch, an undead gunslinger who wears a witch's hat and has his mouth sewn shut. He serves as bodyguard to Halloween Girl and gets an adventure all his own in Volume 2.
After reading the interview, I had to find Volume 1. Sadly, it's either out of print or very difficult to find, and after I exhausted my usual haunts, I did a little trick-or-treating and unearthed a copy. Brereton's color palette sets the stories in a perpetual state of autumn, with plenty of orange, red, and gold hues illuminated by a full moon. If you can't find a copy, don't worry: the stories between Volume 1 and 2 are not entirely linear, and readers can pick up the readily available latter volume and dig in.
Volume 1 was published by Olympian Publishing, and they did a fantastic job in giving this dark gem a deserved polishing. What Image Comics has done, however, is just as impressive, as they took Olympian's deluxe format and faithfully transferred it over to Volume 2. The thick, durable black cover is here, and so is the heavy, black-trimmed paper-stock. The golden metallic cover text is also reproduced, lending a touch of class to these low-life characters. Sitting side-by-side on a shelf, the two collections could very well be from the same publisher, despite their unique packages. Now that's a commitment to both the property and fans.
Volume 2 opens with an All Hallow's Eve Gala Event, with contributions by Bruce Timm, Stan Sakai, Kieron Dwyer, Arthur Adams (!) and more (watch for Usagi Yojimbo's cameo). Brereton has plenty of room, however, to spread his brush, and the title story, "The Dark Forever," is easily my favorite and packs the two-fisted dialogue:
Starfish: "Hello, Bandit."
Bandit: "They don't call me that anymore...."
Starfish: "They'll be calling you 'Stumpy' if you don't move your hammy paw off my shoulder."
The artwork in Volume 2 is even richer than in Volume 1 (Image's reproduction is vibrant). There are subtle tonal shifts in color per scene depending on the focal character; backgrounds are fully rendered, spooky, and detailed; and the action is fluid--a feat for fully painted artwork like this, where rapid-fire movements can come across as stilted. This is the supernatural made natural. Get your hammy paws on either or both of these volumes this October for a perfect blend of horror, crime, and weird. Call it Monster Noir. It's enough to make a pumpkin grin.