By Ted Naifeh
Auteur (French for author) is a word typically used in film when a director has so much artistic influence over the work that it becomes all their own. It’s a big deal for one person to be labeled as an auteur because there are so many people involved in making movies, but in comics there aren’t as many credited roles. So when a person writes and illustrates their own comic it isn’t perceived as being quite the same feat and, while they usually retain the rights and are therefore known as the “creator”, the task of making your very own comic book is commonly seen as less spectacular than making a film. Not necessarily true. Writing and illustrating your own comic book goes well beyond having creative control, because that creator is also doing all of the work themselves, which likely includes all of the preliminary chores as well. This is of course debatable, but your average comic book creator might be able to direct a movie by relying on a film crews’ expertise, while it’s less likely your average director could sit down and make a comic book singlehandedly.
Comparisons aside, the new comic book series, Night’s Dominion by Ted Naifeh, does something that all creative types can admire – Naifeh creates a world so believable you’ll forget to ask where, and when, it even takes place. It certainly feels like a medieval-like fantasyland, but is it an Eastern or Western land? Are we in the middle ages or is it earlier? Is this Earth, another world, and does it even matter? All valid questions, which may assist the reader, but why? The story is well rounded with genuine characters and exciting action. If you let yourself be taken in by Night’s Dominion, you may not want to leave. As comics go, it’s a great panel-by-panel story that gives the plot fluidity despite the first issue’s responsibility to fill us in. This is a perfectly established world that takes most of issue #1 to further establish the storyline and the current set of circumstances our heroes face. We get to know them and then we get to know some of them a little bit better, but it’s seemingly all in the name of setting the story up for a proper evolution rather than more backstory. The debut issue is still a thrilling ride, and hats off to Naifeh for developing such charming qualities in what may otherwise be average folks meshed with known tropes from the superhero genre. Therein lies the quality of a creator with more than just the chops to script a story and draw the pictures…Naifeh makes us believe and that is an aspect of the job that can’t necessarily be taught. Just like film auteurs, long time writer and / or artist Ted Naifeh manages to once again stand out as a creator with books worth reading. In his career there are times when Naifeh writes a book and other times when he draws a book, but when he decides to make his own, well, you can feel the difference and it’s obvious that readers are in the hands of a someone who has mastered any and all artistic challenges.
Night’s Dominion, among other themes, is a story about vigilantism and the discussion in the first issue addresses consequences and obstacles giving us some insight to what it means to work outside of the ruling party or government. The book does tend to rely on our common knowledge of superheroes, vigilantes and costumed heroes, but that’s not really a bad thing. For one, couldn’t we always use more costumed good guys and bad guys fighting it out on rooftops? Yes. Why else is the new releases rack at the local comic shop constantly dominated by such books? The blessing that Night’s Dominion bestows upon us is the setting in which this story takes place. Settings, particularly in comics, are a character in them selves. Gotham City for instance is a far more dangerous prospect than, say, New York City, mostly because you can go to NYC and assess for yourself. Creating new worlds provides an opportunity to create all-new dangers, threats and pitfalls worse than the ones we know. Also, when it comes to creating new worlds, Ted Naifeh is apparently more than up for the job, and this place feels authentic from the outset. This is definitely one of those times where you’ll wish the entire trade collection were already out so you could consume it all at once. Patience is a virtue and, luckily, there’s plenty of superhero stuff already out there, although it may not be as stylistically engrossing as Night’s Dominion.