Monday, August 13, 2012

Review- NIGHT FORCE: 100 PAGE SPECTACULAR #1

NIGHT FORCE: 100 PAGE SPECTACULAR #1 (DC, 2011; Softcover)
Collects Night Force Nos. 1-4 (cover dates August- November, 1982)
Writer: Marv Wolfman
Artists: Gene Colan (penciler) and Bob Smith (inker)
DC released this out of the blue, right before announcing a hardcover collection of the original series. They cancelled that hardcover due to low pre-orders, right before it's release, leading me to believe that they hadn't even began work on it yet. It was re-solicited as a trade paperback, which was also cancelled due to low pre-orders. I have no idea what DC's parameters for low pre-orders are, as they seem to have no rhyme or reason with their collected editions department. I know that the cancellation isn't my fault, as I pre-ordered both versions in their original solicitation cycle. Pre-orders are everything in this business, folks, at least when dealing with less popular properties like this. A comic shop would order a new Batman trade paperback without any obligated pre-orders because it will move in the short term, but Night Force? Not so much.
And that's the damn shame of it all, because this is a fantastic read. I had never even heard of this series before this book was released, and now I cannot live without a collected edition of the entire series. Worse still, I went on comicbookdb.com and discovered that these was a second series by Marv Wolfman and Brent Anderson (Astro City) in the '90s. There is also a new series by DC, and it is already being axed. I am a trade waiter, and it is times like these that I feel guilty. If only I bought monthly comic books, my favorites would be spared, or so the thought process goes. I know this to be untrue, as trade paperback orders are often factored into the survival rate of a series, but in the back of my mind, I see things in a nostalgic spinner rack haze.
The gist (without spoiler-ish plot reveals)- Jack Gold is a failed reporter with a drinking problem. He has fallen from grace due to drinking and marital problems, bounced from prestigious newspapers to tabloid reporting. He is assigned to interview Baron Winters, a recluse who lives in a Victorian era Georgetown mansion. Things are not at all what they seem with the Baron, with his pet cheetah Merlin, a garden with a doorway that is a window to the past, and the fact that he hasn't aged in at least 60 years. He has an old book called Night Force, and seems to be assembling a team through a series of manipulations to serve a purpose not entirely revealed in this book.
Vanessa Van Helsing is committed to the Potomac Insane Asylum for her delusions and seizures. The reality of it is that Vanessa can detect and channel evil energies, and has become the target of the Russian Government in their quest for new weapons. Donovan Caine is a parapsychologist with Georgetown University, and is studying the occult when he stumbles upon something that is more than a coincidence concerning Vanessa. All of the ingredients are in place, the plot is set to a boil...and then the book ends. This initial arc was seven issues long, so we get cut off before the story blew it's wad, so to speak.
The creators- Marv Wolfman is a master storyteller, creating a rich, layered tapestry of the macabre. His soap opera style plots, ever evolving and unfolding, make you want to read each and every issue. I may have to actually go out and hunt down the back issues of this series, as I am dying to know how this turns out. Gene Colan is a master of the medium, with his brushstrokes casting shadows and a genuine sense of foreboding. He offers photo realism with a rough hewn edge, and is one of the greatest artists of his generation. These two carved out one of the '70's greatest collaborations, with a stellar run on Tomb of Dracula, available in two “handy” Omnibus hardcovers. (The third Tomb of Dracula Omnibus is written by Marv Wolfman, but the art is not exclusively by Gene Colan.)
Writing: 4.5 out of 5.
Art: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- Not quite a comic book, not quite a trade paperback, DC's 100 Page Spectacular format is befuddling. It has a cardstock cover, albeit much thinner than a standard trade paperback. This allows the book to sit like a comic book on your hand while reading. It's like a thicker prestige format comic from the '90s, with the nice coated stock paper. It's very, very strange. It is squarebound and has a spine with the title of the book on it, but it also has the price and UPC on the front cover like a comic book. I want to segregate it from my trade paperbacks, but it reprints classic material. Does it belong on my bookshelf or in a box? What is an OCD suffering boy supposed to do? Bag and board it and put it in an acid free storage box? Put it on your bookshelf? A pox upon you, DC! 
Covers are not included, with the exception of Issue 1's, which graces the front cover of the book. 
The restoration is generally excellent, pulled from pristine file sources. The only exception is Page 23 of issue 4, which is obviously from a poorly scanned floppy. It is embarrassing, every bit as bad as something IDW would do in their Classic G.I. Joe trade paperbacks. The re-coloring is sloppy, with the colorist using the computer to fill in the shapes rather than doing it “by hand” on the computer. The colorist here obviously never got coloring inside of the lines down pat, as there are countless instances of it in this book, even blowing over the panel borders. It has that cheesy “airbrushed” look to it, and is just laziness on the colorist's part. I guess if DC is only paying X amount of the budget on re-coloring, then this is what you get. The untrained eye might not catch this, so I'll give you an example below. 
Notice how this looks worse than any line bleed from the old four color printing process? This is inexcusable, and is indicative of why DC's collected editions department is light years behind Marvel's. 
Linework restoration: 5 out of 5. (except for the last page).
Color restoration: 1 out of 5.
Paper: 3 out of 5.
Binding: 4 out of 5.

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