Night Owl Society #1 kicks off a story about a group of high school students taking on the mob. Is it good?
Writer: James Venhaus
Artist: Pius Bak
Publisher: IDW Publishing
This issue introduces us to a high schooler, named David, on a mission to take down the local mob. Problem is, we don’t really find out why. Not that taking down the mob isn’t a pretty inherently good thing, but we don’t get a sense of why it’s so important to David. We don’t get a very clear or convincing understanding of his motivations or emotional state. There’s some exposition about death in his family and David knowing a victim of the mob, but none of it is interesting or emotionally impactful. It may not be entirely fair to say we don’t get told David’s motivations, but we definitely don’t get to feel them. This is a pretty significant problem. The clunky exposition tells us why David does what he does, but I still forgot why as I read the issue. There just isn’t any successfully conveyed sense of rage, sadness, or even connection to the mob victim who David he knew.
A significant portion of this issue is devoted to David going around his high school recruiting classmates to help him in his fight against the mob. The problem, again, is motivations. All of David’s peers seem to have known the mob victim (a man referred to Father Shawn) but we get no any indication of how all these kids knew him or why they care so much. We certainly don’t get any compelling explanation for why they were so affected by the death that they are all willing to accompany a peer they don’t know to take on the mob. These characters are getting themselves into extremely dangerous situations and it just doesn’t feel believable.
As much as I’m critiquing it, I’m not trying to give the impression that the writing is all horrible. Some of the dialogue is decent, and the pacing isn’t too bad. With that said, the best aspects of the issue are all art-related. The compositional choices are all solid, and there’s a lot of content packed into this issue. With comic book prices at an all-time high, it can get frustrating to see series where each page only has three to five panels each. That isn’t the case here; the art packs a lot of panels on most of the pages, and it does it without feeling overcrowded. This ability to pack a lot of story into a short amount of space is admirable.
Unfortunately, not much else about the issue is notably good. While there’s a lot of content, it’s almost all boring at worst or unbelievable at best. The unconvincing handling of characters’ emotions and motivations kills the narrative thrust of the story, and while there’s some great page layouts, the actual line-art isn’t very inspiring. It’s never terrible, but it never feels stylish or memorable either. Overall, this issue was a weak start for the series. It’s not the worst thing being published right now, but it’s too far from good to be worth spending four dollars on.