Night Owl Society #1 ComicWow! Review

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James Venhaus has written Ugly People, Broken Record, Weird Sisters, The Happy Couple, and more.  He is also an actor and producer, known for The Census (2014), Group Project (2013) and Saints Over the Edge (2014).

This appears to be Pius Bak’s first American comic credit. He was connected to Australi, a promising Kickstarter project that unfortunately did not make its funding goal.

The central idea is simple:  in Dallas, Texas, a teenage misfit (David) gathers a group of talented outcasts with specialized skills in order to take revenge on a local crime boss to avenge his killing a friend and mentor.

Obviously, it’s been done before.  This is true of a huge number of plots, characters and themes in literature, TV/Movies, and (of course) comics.  If that were true, then the movies of the MCU and DCU would have no visitors, because “we’ve seen this before.”

In short, it’s not that this is just another “teenage outcasts become heroes” story. The thing that makes this special is how well it’s done.

Venhaus has taken the standard story and imbued it with a new vitality.  A local crime boss known as the Viceroy has had Father Shawn killed.  One boy knows that he did it, and he is planning on revenge.  He assembles a team (Muscle, Hacker, and Break-in Artist) to deal with the crime boss.  A girl invites herself into the mission, because her father died fighting a similar evil in Afghanistan.

In this first issue, David assembles his team and they go on their first mission.  Readers are also given a great insight into the Viceroy.  The Viceroy embodies, in Hannah Arendt’s words, the “banality of evil.”  He is not a costumed maniac, alien invader, Nazi, or crazed metahuman.  He is a calm, almost meek looking family man.

Likewise, these kids may have strengths and talents, but they are definitely not metahuman, let alone superhuman or supernatural.  They are human children, painfully aware of their situation. The adult world will not believe them, and therefore, it will not take action against the Viceroy. If they are caught, their mission fails, and the Viceroy walks away.  If they do nothing, the Viceroy continues his criminal enterprises.  They must succeed; there is no other option.  Obviously, these kids have not told their parents.   Beyond that, David has a vitally important secret that he has withheld from the rest of the team.

Venhaus has a talent for dialogue, and his writing is strongest in the interactions of the characters.  He has carefully crafted this tale not to give away too much too soon. Venhaus has a great eye for capturing the nuances of teenage behavior. He shows their strengths and their weaknesses with a deft hand.

Pius Bak’s artwork is slightly reminiscent of Michael Dialynas’ work on BOOM! Comics’ The Woods.  He uses light and shadow well, and he has a sense of how to use the page structure work for him.  He uses unusual devices (long panels, characters moving from panel to panel vertically, and single images split over multiple panels) to move the story forward in a carefully structured way.

This is an unusually well-polished issue from a pair of relative newcomers, and definitely one you need to check out.

Written by: James Venhaus

Illustrated by: Pius Bak