By Ben Snyder
Following his landmark success Giant Days, John Allison begins his new mini-series, By Night and while it may seem a bit too similar to his other works at first, By Night #1 does enough by the end of the chapter to set itself apart. Allison shows a remarkable wealth of knowledge and talent in writing dialogue that could conceivably be spoken in real life, and it’s a highlight of the chapter for sure. It is not a perfect chapter as some of Christine Larsen’s illustrations are a bit lacking, Sarah Stern’s colors can be a little to bland, and Allison’s overall story tends to be so-so; By Night #1 is still a more than respectable story.
Even in Allison’s other stories such as Giant Days and Bad Machinery, the dialogue between characters was always a standout. Allison simply has a knack for tapping into what people actually sound like. It’s really a breath of fresh air as most times in similarly themed stories, it can feel as though the writer is trying to sound to young by using an abundance of outdated slang or other stereotypes. But Allison treats these young adult women with respect and their words reflect that. Specifically with the character of Jane Langstaff, her plight is almost to relatable.
Of course everything goes bonkers once she encounters her estranged ex-best friend Heather outside of work, and the ensuing journey is entertaining if not original. It’s a little hazy as to Heather’s true intentions of encountering Jane (Was she planning it? Was it simply coincidence?) And these questions should be answered relatively shortly, as I don’t think either character expected the chapter to end the way it did. I am missing some depth from the character Heather though. Right now it seems as though she is a slightly darker manic-pixie-dream girl with ulterior motives and that’s simply not going to cut it when paired with Jane.
Christine Larsen’s art style is very cartoony but still manages to convey a more than adequate amount of emptions. Some scenes are a bit inconsistent such as the duo’s flashlight investigation of the factory and range from pretty to blurry to quickly. I’m also a bit confused by the character model of Heather as sometimes she is depicted more slender and other times more stocky. But Larsen does get pretty inventive with panel layout, especially on the opening page when the other scientist’s fingers act a panel around Jane. Sarah Stern’s colors are solid as well although there is little experimentation or shading. Most of the colors are standard tones with little depth, but they’re not distracting from the story itself.
By Night #1 is an entertaining tale about two estranged friends encountering something other-wordly and hopefully getting closer because of it. It’s not the most unique or engrossing story, but John Allsion does enough with his characterization and dialogue to draw the readers in. There is room for expansion as to what is actually on the other side of the portal and what exactly are Heather’s true intentions, so the series can go in a bunch of directions.
By Night #1