Nocturnals, Volume 1: Black Planet by Dan Brereton is a really fun, creepy horror-themed graphic novel. This was my first exposure to the Nocturnals, and I’d recommend it as a good place to start the series (in fact this book collects the first six issues of the Nocturnals).
The Nocturnals are essentially a bunch of misfits and freaks (I don’t want to spoil any of their origins or specific abilities here, as that’s a major part of the fun in reading Black Planet) who have run-ins with both the mob and a strange alien menace. The group is led by Doc Halloween, who is joined by his daughter Eve (Halloween Girl) and companions Polychrome, Firelion, Starfish, The Raccoon, Komodo, and the Gunwitch.
Reading that premise sounds cheesier than it actually comes across, however. Outcasts from society, they band together and seem to form a real family, even though they are what most would consider to be “monsters.” The action, pacing, and violence are all intense, and the main characters are truly well-conceived and have some neat abilities. The book is plotted pretty tightly and flowed nicely; I found myself having to reread the beginning a bit just to make sure I understood what was going on and who the characters all were, but that wasn’t a big deal.
The book isn’t illustrated in a traditional “comic book” fashion, as I would describe it. Instead, each panel in the book is essentially a painting, and most are extremely well done. I don’t know a lot about art, but I’d kind of describe them as looking a little like watercolors, as there’s a lot of color blending and few sharp edges. They look very evocative, though definitely non-traditional for the comic medium. In addition to the six issues collected in this book, there is a pin-up gallery in the back that has all the covers as well as full-page color art by a variety of artists inspired by the series.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys horror comics, gunplay and mobster violence, pulpy action (of the more the violent persuasion, like the Spider), and Lovecraftian critters and weirdnesses. I liked this one so much I picked up all the other Nocturnals graphic novels. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers