‘City of Others: Tenth Anniversary Edition’ – Advance Hardcover Review

“When it comes to horror comics, few artists can measure up to the legendary Bernie Wrightson.  Now, after a long hiatus from making comics, Wrightson is back at the drawing table working side by side with acclaimed writer Steve Niles on the more exciting new horror comics of the year – City of Others,” touted Dark Horse’s website for the first issue of this series that dropped in February, 2007.   

Writer of 30 Days of Night and Criminal Macabre, Steve Niles penned a dark story about a hired killer, Stosh “Blud” Bludowski, who seems to be incapable of feeling anything other than intense rage. From a young age, killing came easy for the loner.  While completing what should have been a typical hit, Blud learns of the existence of undead others.  Legendary Swamp Thing and Frankenstein Alive, Alive artist Bernie Wrightson brought his classical visual expertise to the horror story and was joined by colorist José Villarrubia (Promethea, Sweet Tooth), letterer Michael David Thomas (X-Wing: Rogue Leader, Clone Wars Adventures), and editor Shawna Gore (Criminal Macabre: Cellblock 666, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein).  

“Critical events always begin a long time before you have any idea something has even started.” Thus begins Blud’s voice-over in the opening scene of a small airport in New Mexico.  One is immediately drawn in by Blud’s observation, because the scene seems so innocuous as it follows a young pregnant woman as she disembarks from the airplane.  Niles provides an intriguing hook: Who is speaking? What is the critical event being faced? He creates tension and expertly holds the reader’s attention, because it is a handful of pages before the reader even gets their first glimpse of Blud.  While Niles weaves a fresh tale on familiar classic monsters, he doesn’t get bogged down into the mire of too much detail.  Rather, Niles is constantly applying pressure and ramping up the sense of urgency.  As a result, City of Others is a tightly written story that will rivet one’s attention and keep them turning the pages.

Wrightson was a master at his craft, and there are several gems in City of Others.  For example, during the first scene, as the medic attends to the pregnant woman, the ultrasound image followed by the reveal – accentuated by spurt and snap sounds – is horrific and eludes to Wrightson’s classical style of artistic expression.  He hits his stride with underpinnings of the Gothic style glimpsed in the cityscapes, out at the old rural home, the Frankensteinian-style laboratory, the billowing clothing (especially Blud’s brown duster), and, of course, the faces of the decaying undead that crowd the panels.  The close-up of the undead masses as Blud looks through the binoculars makes a lasting impression.  And, Villarrubia’s colors and Thomas’ lettering heighten Wrightson’s illustrations without distracting from them.

Often overshadowed by other Niles-Wrightson collaborations, City of Others represents the first project of this powerhouse duo who became dear friends.  The ease by which they fell into sync with each other complemented what each brought to the creative team - each passionate about their craft, telling the story where the words and visuals blend harmoniously together that the reader is propelled into that fictional world such that s/he feels they are part of the journey.   Niles and Wrightson did go on to collaborate on a number of successful projects – not enough of them, if you ask me – but City of Others was the first.

Creative Team: Steve Niles (co-writer); Bernie Wrightson (co-writer and cover/interior artist); José Villarrubia (colorist); Michael David Thomas (letterer); Shawna Gore (editor); Jemiah Jefferson (assistant editor); David Nestelle and Patrick Satterfield (designers)
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
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