Inspired by certain realities in the creators' personal lives, Tales of the Night Watchman is a blend between the standard, comic book superhero tale (where the lead character must juggle the dual nature of their two identities) and a hard-broiled crime noir (where one finds blood stains and bodies in every alley). Our lead characters, Nora and Charlie, may both look to be stuck in dead-end jobs at the local coffee spot to the causal observer, but together they are the only ones who can protect their city from an influx of paranormal activity. Nora is a strong-willed, sensible, and refreshingly real female lead who operates as a blogger (with aspirations of being a respected investigative journalist) when she’s not pouring the black stuff. Charlie’s past is a mystery with the only certainty being that, from time-to-time, he finds himself possessed by The Night Watchman, the soul of a mysterious detective who wields an ancient scepter that holds unimaginable power (and is really great for beating zombies to death).
There’s a lot to enjoy about the first issue of Tales of the Night Watchman, and it definitely stands out among the typical assortment of self-published books. First off, don’t worry, my little comic book sniffers - this book does contain nudity. I know that’s a real selling point for our readers when it comes to self-published works (or is that just me?). In all seriousness, though, this is the first book in a long time (maybe even EVER!) where our lead female character stays fully clothed the entire issue, not even being reduced to a skin-tight or scantily-clad moment, and our lead male character strips down completely and shows off his hiney - multiple times! This may not seem of much importance to the casual comic reader, but in this male-dominated industry full of hyper-sexualized visualizations of the female form, it really caused the book to stand out. Artist Lara Antal has a great and unique style that works well for the book. While there are one or two places she struggles with some difficult perspectives, the majority of the work is clean and engaging. Antal has a real mastery of facial expressions, which really breathes life into the story, and also brings some great composition and layout skills to the book. Sometimes, you can actually feel a cry for a colorist radiating from black and white indie books, but this is not the case with Tales of the Night Watchman. Writer Dave Kelly also does a good job of building a mysterious history to Charlie and The Night Watchman. The way Kelly’s story unravels indicates that he’s building his own mythology with this spectral detective character and has a story to tell that will surely last beyond one or two issues.
I did have one or two minor issues with the first issue of Tales of the Night Watchman. While the hand-lettering job was easily readable, the bubble positioning/order was confusing at times, and I really feel that a digital lettering job would really raise the professional look of the book. I was also kind of shocked when Nora started berating Charlie midway through the story regarding his two-week vacation from work to fight the supernatural forces of evil. I get Charlie isn’t bringing money in and a lack of rent can make any one stressed, but is Nora really so oblivious as to what would happen if The Night Watchman wasn’t on the street, cracking zombie skulls? Would she feel better if she knew innocent people had their flesh eaten off their bones as long as she can hand the rent in on time? Someone needs to get their priorities in check. (I’m looking at you, Nora!) Regarding the art, I had some trouble initially telling that short-haired Serena was a teenage girl and not a teenage boy. Finally, I was also unclear as to why Nora and Charlie seem to be embracing on the cover in a way that implies a romantic element to their relationship. The image is beautiful but seemed to speak against what was portrayed in the book itself. Perhaps this is a plot point that will be developing in future issues, but with this current issue, it didn’t seem to make sense to me given what I learned so far of Nora and Charlie.
Despite these minor flaws, Tales of the Night Watchman #1 is an enjoyable read, and I believe the book shows real potential for both Antal and Kelly! Let’s hope they continue creating comics and honing their crafts! Tales of the Night Watchman #1 is available for purchase at the official website. You can find a preview of the comic and more about the creators and creation process at the website, as well. Also, be sure to stop by and “like” the official Facebook page of Tales of the Night Watchman.
’Till the next time I’m possessed by my inner spectral comic book reviewer,
-Bryant the Comic Book Slayer