I never read the original run of Night Force in 1982, or the follow up in 1996. I’m not sure why, it seems right up my ally. A veteran sorcerer named Baron Winters, who is unable to leave his magical manor, organizes special individuals to fight demonic and supernatural threats. While under the radar, Night Force has had a presence in the DC Comics world, even appearing in one form alongside Superman. Now, in 2012, writer Marv Wolfman and artist Tom Mandrake are bringing the Baron back with a new list of characters.
Night Force is the first issue of this seven part series and it is, mostly, the set up issue. It’s vague, confusing and often veers right into the on-coming traffic of making no sense at all. That’s the way these stories are, especially when they’re dealing with the supernatural. For reasons long forgotten, all supernatural stories must be frustratingly perplexing in order to make their point. Night Force is no different. If you want to be involved in the demonic, spooky spirit battles, then you have to deal with having no idea what the hell is going on. Even the end of issue 1 is confounding.
Our story opens with an attempt on a girl’s life during which she has visions of demon babies and other bizarre figures. Cut to a cop who is tipped off about the attempted murder and stops it just in time. Watching the hero cop save the girl is a mysterious shadow company made up of humanoid creatures in black suits. This is when Baron Winters pops in and sets up, well, absolutely nothing. Back to the girl, now in the hospital, and her good guy policeman guardian, who are brought before Baron Winters so he can fill them in on what’s happening. Don’t get excited, it doesn’t clear anything up. Winters is incredibly cryptic.
Did I mention the fake FBI Agents? The ones who come to take away the body of a serial killer that attempted to break into Baron Winters’ estate? What about the obviously demon driven senator or the woman that was manipulated by Baron Winters to help him that is eaten by a monster? All of that goes down right before we learn that the cop may be lying about… something. You think I’m being this elusive for effect? Nope, that’s how Night Force #1 plays out.
Marv Wolfman obviously knows how to write a supernatural thriller. He has the cryptic and the weird down cold. The rest of the decision is yours. Do you wait around to see if it gets worked out, if the loose ends tie together, or do you bail out because your brain hurts? I wasn’t impressed enough with the story to keep going. It’s not the confusing aspect, but more that Wolfman didn’t give enough meat to his story to propel me into issue #2. I’m a longtime fantasy and supernatural fan, but this issue fell flat in my eyes. It’s not bad, just nothing exciting.
Tom Mandrake’s art doesn’t help the situation. The lack of consistency in the work is staggering. On some pages the pencils are nicely done, strong lines, good use of shading, and a real excellent nod to noir. In others it looks like bad Mad Magazine rips offs. From page to page, there is no stability of form. Night Force comes across like Mandrake tried one day and didn’t the next. The uneven art hurts an already uneven story. The return of Night Force isn’t a bad thing, it just isn’t anything to get excited about.
(3 Story, 2 Art)