Review: Tales of the Night Watchman

Tales of the Night Watchman is a supernatural horror comic told in a fusion of contemporary and noir styles, illustrated in a rough, gritty style absolutely fitting its noir-horror elements. The series is reminiscent of old favorites such as Dick Tracy and Detective Tales, but updated to the modern world.

Issue one starts off the main storyline, The Long Fall. We're introduced to Nora, manager of Think Coffee, and Charlie, a deceased detective from the 1940's who's returned to fight supernatural crime as The Night Watchman. Nora and Charlie share Charlie's old apartment and Charlie works at Nora's coffeeshop, though his assistance at the shop is often hindered by supernatural threats that fail to take Charlie's work schedule into account, much to Nora's frustration.

The Night Watchman makes a horrible blunder as he saves Serena, a genderqueer youth, from a man chasing her, only to later learn that Serena had stolen the man's wallet. Charlie and The Night Watchman make it their mission to rehabilitate Serena and invite Serena to work at Nora's coffeeshop, much to Nora's dismay as Serena blunders through the job. This issue also introduces the too-good-to-be-true District Councilman Dan Dean and Nora's close friend, Trish. Trish comes to Nora for help solving the murder of her friend and coworker, Jenny, who's being labeled a Jane Doe by the police.

Nora is an avid blogger and hopes to one day work as a journalist, but luck hasn't been kind to her during interviews. Meanwhile, Charlie bounces between the worlds of the living and the dead as he tries to piece together who he was before his death, a quest that is complicated by the spirit of Merritt, the man who sent Charlie plunging to his death off the Brooklyn Bridge.

The main story is fleshed out by several side stories detailing The Night Watchman's (and Nora's) other victories. The Dwellers of Big Bogie follows a mystery that involves a kidnapped child and strange happenings in the subway. The Poison Garden travels back to the past to tell the story of Trish and Jenny's friendship before Jenny's murder while Staycation details Trish and Nora's vacation just before the start of the series. The Mad Mind of Anton Sebaum introduces a mad scientist who uses counterfeit bills to fund his obsession with machines. The Night Collector is horror straight from tales of Dracula, with a growing group of vampires that feed on men.

Issue seven reprises the side-story It Came From the Gowanus Canal as the Gowanus Golem—a creature from the depths that is formed from the vengeful ghosts of the dead that fill the Gowanus Canal—returns to enact vengeance for a child who drowned after bullies cracked the icy canal beneath him. It Came From Gowanus Canal ...Again! also focuses on Charlie, Nora, and Serena's plans (or lack thereof) for Christmas, where Charlie's purchase of a Christmas tree sends Serena storming out into the cold after a fight with Nora.

Overall, the story is very engaging. I was quickly drawn into the lives of Nora and Charlie. Serena's still growing on me. The problems the characters face, aside from the supernatural, are the same kind of problems most people face in their daily lives—responsibility, loneliness, low income, unfulfilled goals, and the growing disconnect from friends and family as our busy lives consume us. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nora and Charlie become a couple as the series progresses, though time will tell if Charlie's able to remain in the world of the living for much longer.

Tales of the Night Watchman is written by Dave Kelly and illustrated by co-creator Lara Antal. Side stories are illustrated by Amanda Scurti, J. Vigants, Molly Ostertag, and others. It's available through Dave and Lara's So What? Press, which champions independent comics. The first six issues are available in digital and print editions for $5 each or $45 for the complete set. Issue seven is scheduled for release in November.

Jenna Hale's picture
on October 11, 2017

Writer of things strange, fantastical, and queer. Professional code monkey. Fanficcer. Gamer. Convention planner.