Nightbreed is a new comic from BOOM! Studios written by Marc Andreyko and drawn by Piotr Kowalski but based on the cult film of the same name by Clive Barker, itself based on one of his novels. Nightbreed already had a comic book but this is different from that other comic book which was also based on the movie based on the book, but it was a more direct adaptation apparently where this is not. Confused yet? Don’t worry, none of that background really matters here.
Full disclosure: I have not seen the original movie and I’ve not read the book, Cabal I believe it’s called. If you’re looking for an opinion on how this ties into the original and if it captures the same feel then I’m afraid I can’t help you. I can however give you my honest opinion of how this is as a comic book on its own. It’s being billed as not requiring any prior knowledge of Nightbreed whatsoever and I actually think plenty of people will pick this up not knowing about the original.
Horror comics are of course quite common these days so does this stand out from the rest? Not as much as I’d like, at least not yet.
The core concept of Nightbreed is that there’s a secret society of monsters living in the shadows of everyday life. The solicitation text itself even draws the obvious parallel to Fables and is quick to rightly quip that Nightbreed predates it. With this first issue though you’d be forgiven for not knowing about this little band of ghouls, as there’s not actually much here that explicitly expresses that wider mythology. Instead we have two different timelines that we flip back and forth between, 1847 and 1945. This is after an introduction where a character is seemingly talking to us, the readers, and explains that we’re not alone in the world. As with the majority of the issue it doesn’t tell us much beyond some hints and implications.
While one storyline, 1847, is an action filled violent encounter with a monster, the 1945 plot is very slow paced and instead we follow the lead character as he slowly works his way from a restaurant to a brothel and then travels through the building. It’s not that it’s a bad storyline but it’s painfully slow when the outcome is obvious from so early on. The 1847 story is more enjoyable but after a few pages the violence all just blurs together and again it feels like you’re waiting for the end. I’m repeating myself but honestly it’s not bad per se, it’s just very straightforward. Also at this stage beyond clearly being set in the same world there are no definitive ties between the two stories, whether they’ll have a direct link later on remains to be seen.
Kowalski’s artwork is pretty strong. It won’t shock you but there are enough particular panels in it that show how Kowalski is on the ball and can showcase plenty of variety. It’s quite dark stuff and the juxtaposition between the different settings works well, but it’s fairly standard as far as comic book art goes. The colour work is actually the most notable part of the art, as you can see from above it’s brilliant at building atmosphere and that continues through the whole issue.
There’s nothing explicitly wrong with Nightbreed #1 beyond the dawdling pace. For instance I learnt far more about the series from the solicitation text than I did from the actual issue itself. I’ve been tantalised enough to want to return for next time but it’s just a bit frustrating that the opening issue did little more than tease me with its potential. Perhaps I’m numb to it after reading so many horror comics that begin with extended bloody violence but I was hoping for more of an explanation of Nightbreed’s lore. However if massacring monsters is what you want, then this issue delivers plenty of that.
Taken on its own Nightbreed #1 is a perfectly okay issue but not really anything special. In its entirety Nightbreed could very well be a strong story once it gets going. The premise is interesting and monster designs are noticeably unique and nonconventional. It’s just a shame so little actually happens in this issue. If you’re interested in the premise and are content with knowing that it begins in a fairly generic fashion for a horror comic, then by all means it’s worth trying. Otherwise maybe wait and see how the second issue is before diving in.
As a final note I want to again throw up my hands and say I am not a fan of the previous material as I’ve simply never had the chance to check it out. I’ve written this review for other people like me who don’t know a thing about Nightbreed but wanted to try the issue out anyway. As such I believe it’s only fair to point out that fans of the original will likely have an easier time enjoying the elements of the issue that didn’t appeal to me.