Even if you’ve never read a single page from the previous issues, the latest installment of Dave Kelly and Lara Antal’s Tales of the Night Watchman reads like you’re connecting with old friends from start to finish. It just feels right, like you’re picking up a good conversation you didn’t know you were having.
For a quick background from the description of issue 1, Tales of the Night Watchman follows Nora Cashin, a writer that is stuck at her job as a coffee bar manager, and her roommate Charlie, “who happens to be possessed (in the nicest way possible) by a spectral detective.” In addition to dealing with the tumult of serving coffee to the masses (a challenge in itself), they also deal with the troubles of daily life and, of course, some paranormal activity. Issue 3 both continues along the storyline “The Long Fall” started in previous issues, and starts a new storyline, “The Dwellers of Big Bogie.” That’s right, two stories for the price of one!
One of the successes for part three of “The Long Fall” is how naturally a reader can jump in and get a feel for the characters and their surroundings. This is a credit to both writer Dave Kelly for creating characters that are like people we probably encounter in our real lives, and to artist Lara Antal for capturing their expressions in an immediately recognizable way. In an early scene we see Nora sitting through a frustrating job interview with pompous “digital global creative” and her emotions jump off the page in a way that makes it impossible not to relate to her dread and disappointment. In a later scene with Nora’s friend out on a date, everything teeters in the balance like a real date would — it feels like things are going well, but everything could come crashing down without a moment’s notice. The authenticity of the characters and these scenes made me much more invested in the story, even if the conflicts had relatively low stakes.
Speaking of low stakes, for a comic that typically features possession and monsters, the first story in this issue read more like a drama than a horror or fantasy tale. It wasn’t until the end that we get a glimpse into what is coming for the Night Watchman, but it happens so quickly that new readers may be confused. That said, it plays out in such a dark and whirlwind fashion that it should pique most readers’ interest in going back to the start of the story and come back for more.
The second story in the issue, part one of “The Dwellers in Big Bogie,” takes us back to the horror side of things. While Lara Antal’s bold, black lines helped each character punch you in the face with their expressions in the first story of the issue, this story is illustrated by Amanda Scurti and takes a more dark, subtle approach to build tension and suspense. The great expressions and characterization are still there, but the heavy shading creates a much more ominous experience. For the horror elements of this comic, this works well — the opening scene in the subway is a good dark omen for things to come.
Unfortunately, for the more lighthearted and comedic elements of this story this black and grey seems to darken the tone a little too much. The scene where the coffee shop’s espresso machine is broken is quite funny – the absurdity of the situation is well delivered and the character interactions feel right. As the same artistic mood is used throughout the story, the humorous aspects of the scene seem a little lost as we move from ridiculous baristas and repairmen to eerie monster child stealing. However, this creepy tone is perfect for building up the story’s cliffhanger and I can’t wait to see how Nora and others will jump in to save the day.
Even if you haven’t been reading Tales of the Night Watchman, issue 3 is a good place to start (or you could pick up issues 1 and 2 too!). This series combines real life stories with the supernatural in a way that places an equal emphasis on both, and as a result we have a group of characters that you feel instantly familiar with and want to root for. Dave, Lara, and Amanda have created something extremely fun to read, and I look forward to the next chapters to come.
Issue 3 of Tales of the Night Watchman will ship on Wednesday, December 17. You can order it, as well as issues 1 and 2, from So What? Press’ Etsy shop.
The Verdict: 8.0/10