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This is the Oni Press trade paperback graphic novel that collects the Nocturnals spin-off Gunwitch: Outskirts of Doom mini-series.  The Gunwitch was a fan favorite character from the Nocturnals comic book series and here he and his companion Halloween Girl get their own mini-series.

Note: This review features mild plot spoilers — read at your own risk.

This is a solo adventure featuring the Gunwitch, the undead revenant bodyguard who protects the Nocturnals (see my reviews of the rest of their collections).  The Gunwitch is typically paired with the precocious Eve Horror (Halloween Girl) who is a gutsy teenage girl who can communicate with a group of spirits who love and protect her.  The Gunwitch is escorting Eve back to her boarding school when they get lost, ending up in a town where two rival factions of vampires are waging a war for control of the town and its inhabitants.  The Gunwitch sends Eve on her way and stays behind to help clean up the mess and resolve the situation, showing a somewhat unexpected heroic side.  It’s not that I found the Gunwitch to not be a heroic figure, but he’s never really evinced a heroic persona before now.

Because the Gunwitch doesn’t talk (his lips are sewn shut), he’s characterized solely by his actions.  The problem with this in a solo adventure is that he risks being upstaged by the minor characters and antagonists, who do get to display snappy dialogue.

The story was just fine – a bit on the predictable side – but just fine.  It is, after all, two groups of vampires (one old-school and one biker gang-ish) who are fighting each other, with Gunwitch in the middle.  We’ve all seen this plot before, so the reader already has a good feel for how this is going to turn out.  But without the lushness of the color paintings by Dan Brereton though, it was a bit lacking.

If you’re a fan of the Nocturnals, I would cautiously recommend this collection.  You’ll certainly want it if you’re a completist.  But if you read the Nocturnals primarily for the art, well, you’re going to be a little disappointed.  I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars, primarily because of the art.  Had the art been in color and done by Dan Brereton, I would have rated in 4 or 4.5 stars out of 5

Review copyright 2010 J. Andrew Byers