When I was 7 years old, my parents’ friends from Scotland came to visit and brought some UK comics with them.
They were weird.
There were subtle differences in language that stood out and all the characters seemed a little different. I never really got into them, and I didn’t understand why there was a need for a separate imprint.
This week I got my hands on Night Raven – apparently a bit of a cult classic in the UK Marvel run – and dove in to see why this was getting the full re-release treatment.
Night Raven: From the Marvel UK Vaults
First thing’s first – this is not a standard comic. This reads and feels very much like an old newspaper comic strip – with very thin characters, basic motivations, and a very clear dividing line between good and evil.
It’s more a Noir comic than a super-hero comic, and Night Raven is classically indifferent to the fate of his opponents. While he doesn’t kill anyone out-right, he most assuredly does not save them, letting them fall off of roofs, be shot by their own men, and devoured by tigers.
His calling card of sorts is a brand in the glove of his right hand. He presses it to the forehead of his enemies, scarring them for life with the Mark of the Raven.
On the surface, this is pretty cheesy stuff. I was first reminded of the pastiche of Noir books from Calvin and Hobbes:
Night Raven grew on me though. This is a character I’m unfamiliar with, so with no past allegiances I could read the book just to find out what happens. That’s rare in a comic reprint for me and pretty fun. It doesn’t cover up the fact that it is truly thin, even with some of the industry greats scripting and pencilling. I will say that as this book has portions written by Alan Moore, I do wonder if a little bit of Night Raven’s DNA ended up in Alan’s depiction of Rorschach in Watchmen.
The book does take a weird turn after the first few pages though – and starts to go for more long form content. Think a short story or a whodunnit type tale, with some Night Raven illustrations – but not a panel by panel recreation of the script. This was odd and a bit offputting at first, but it grew on me, as the story grew more and more convoluted. 60 pages of comics, and about 200 of illustrated text meant this is not a read in a single night book. There’s history and consequences here that follow the Raven around for quite some time.
Overall, I enjoyed this. It didn’t blow me away, but if you’re looking for some more Sam Spade type characters, and want them to have incredibly adventures and cursed long lives – Night Raven might be your speed. If you’re a UK comic fan, I think this must be a great addition to a bookshelf.
7.5 out of 10.