Friday, March 09, 2012

Read "Night Force"

It must be "Earth-3 Week" here at the Absorbascon, where everyone's behavior is the opposite of normal. First, I joined forces with Archie Andrews. Now, I'm telling you to read something by Marv Wolfman, of whom, it is fair to say, I am not generally a fan.

But as you may have noticed, DC has pulled out a surprise in the Second Wave: the return of Night Force.

Night Force was a horror series in the 1980s, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Gene Colan (of swimmin' with the Sea Devils fame). Make no mistake; I despise all of Wolfman's superhero work. But I'm a sucker for some Night Force, I'm afraid... .

When Night Force came out in 1982-83, I was out of contact and unaware of it until re-emerging into this place of existence in the late '80s. I stumbled on it at some small local comic book convention, probably hooked by the fact that the action centered here in Washington DC (where night Force's main character, Baron Winter, lives).

Baron Winters is, frankly, a hokey collocation of occult tropes. Past shrouded in mystery. No first name. Undeterminable age. Anachronistic clothing and habits. Can't leave his house under any circumstance for some unknown reason. Amoral manipulator. Talks to his pet leopard, Merlin, a LOT, and seems to think that Merlin talks back. Mysterious mansion that serves as some sort of null point in space-time (and where Zatanna's father died, very dramatically). Handpicked task of force of unwitting pawns, one or more of whom will die.

Trite? Sure. But, curse Wolfman, it works and I fall for it completely. It might become insufferably formulaic in the long run (like, say, the Pretender, whose every plot evolution could be timed with a stopwatch)... but, of course, it won't have a long run. It's a seven-issue miniseries, and you probably don't want to miss it.

Even though there was much in the original run one could disparage, it had impact and stuck with you. Despite being a bit hackneyed, Night Force was a pivot point in the transition from DC's '70s-style horror to the birth of the "Vertigo-verse". If you are liking "Justice League Dark" to any degree, you'll want to read the new Night Force, because, while Baron Winters hasn't been and never will be a big player on the psychic scene, he's a fixture, a sort of neutral Switzerland in the occult landscape. If you want to be an aficionado of the DCU's non-super-side, you need to be able to find your way to, and around, Wintersgate Manor. Although not, perhaps, the way out ... .


Bryan L said...

It felt a bit rushed and incoherent to me, like somebody (and I'm not necessarily sure the fault is Wolfman's, based on some of the things I've read recently about DC editors) wanted to get way too much into the first issue. I'll read the rest, though. I wasn't a big fan of the original, but it was a reasonably diverting read.

TotalToyz said...

I have to say, it is rather odd to see our friend Scipio clap for the Wolfman....