Before I pick comics, I tend to browse the internet looking for various previews or interviews with the creators, just so I know what I’ll be getting into. With this one, I was a little hesitant to review it because I wasn’t buying the whole “you got your superhero in my fantasy” shtick that seemed to be the marketing ploy for this series. Lucky for me I listened to my gut in this case and read it anyway. Night’s Dominion #1 is a great first issue. It is the start of what I hope will be a great sword and sorcery heist series and while there are aspects of the superhero genre this issue emphasizes the relationships between different heroes rather than actual superheroics. Ted Naifeh writes and illustrates this issue, and he’s done an amazing job on both fronts. Overall, his work is dark, with most of the story taking place in dimly lit taverns or midnight back alleys and rooftops. Each character is well designed and distinct, to the point where you can tell their personality just by looking at them. And despite this dark setting, each character has a certain cartoonish quality about them which provides enough humor to keep the darker mood from being overpowering. He treats his action scenes and his slapstick panels with an equal amount of care, and the result is a well-balanced first look into this world.
Speaking of the world, what I impressed me most in this issue was Naifeh’s sense of place. He has created a lush visual world with great vistas and cityscapes. He clearly knows every section of this city. A key example of this is during a conversation between two characters, Naifeh positions a fountain off in the background, nothing more than an outline, but as the conversation progresses we see one of the characters take a seat on its ledge, and eventually we get a close up of both the character’s face and the face engraved in the fountain. It is as though the closer we get the characters the closer we are to understanding the world.
As for the story, it starts off very much like a heist film or perhaps a story hook for a role playing game. Four very different individuals are brought together for the opportunity to partake in a job that could make them all rich. As I’ve said before, each character is unique, and I especially like what they have done with the monk and what I’m guessing is a wizard or sorcerer character. The monk while very traditional in grab and appearance, is much younger than most holy men in these stories; he owes money to some men who would like to hurt him to get it back. There is something intriguing about a monk deep in debt to the wrong people. If he already has done dealings with these types of characters, what else is he willing to do. Naifeh’s take on the sorcerer is also interesting. It’s hinted by one of the characters that he might be a charlatan which would make his role in this series an unknown, what exactly does he bring to the table if he cannot perform real magic?
The superhero element actually doesn’t appear until past midway through the issue, when Furie, a crime fighter dressed as a hawk or perhaps the classical fury, confronts Emerane, aka the infamous thief known as “The Night.” The two have a very Batman/Catwoman dynamic if Batman didn’t know what to do with his feelings and chased her around the rooftops in an insane frenzy. This aspect, which at the start of the issue I was very much dreading, actually became one of the most intriguing mysteries. Who is this guy? Are there Greek myths in this world? What happened between these two?
I had a lot of questions at the end of this issue, which is always a good sign for a premier issue. I’m putting it down as one of the standouts for this week. If you’re a fan of sword and sorcery or heists, check this one out.
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Night's Dominion #1 Writer/Artist: Ted Naifeh Publisher: Oni Press Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital