By James Venhaus and Pius Bak
A common childhood dream is to be apart of a superhero team and fight evil forces. In Night Owl Society this dream becomes all too real for a scrappy bunch of school kids who come together to catch a murderer. It’s like Justice League meets The Breakfast Club with the aesthetic and danger of The Departed, navigated by an awkward group of teenagers.
Author James Venhaus gives us great writing that leads the reader smoothly through the story by revealing a little bit at a time with each successive page. By the end of the book we have a much clearer idea where the story may be taking us in issues to come and leaves us wanting more. As we are introduced to each new character, which is reminiscent of the character introductions from The Magnificent Seven, we quickly learn about their skill set. The reader will find that the leader is a little bit like Bruce Wayne both in the way he is putting together his team and by how he has been preparing himself. He even goes so far as to put himself in a dangerous situation to see how he fares. Besides himself, you will find the usual team tropes: computer whiz, thief, muscle, brains, and intuition. They are unique though because they are just school kids and shouldn’t be messing with murderers. There is a nice twist at the end that is alluded to throughout the book and promises to create interesting problems in the near future. The dialogue is fitting and captures the way teenagers speak without using slang that could trip up the reader. It’s more of the unsure, defensive gangly way of speaking when you’re an outsider in High School. The Viceroy, the bad guy in this story, is calmly evil. He is a patient businessman that is without a doubt dangerous and Venhaus has done a great job at characterizing him as such and creating a real threat for our heroes. Beyond the story itself, these awkward justice seekers will bring back the reader for more.
Bak’s style almost has a teenager doodling in his notebook feel to it. It’s borderline minimalistic and rough around the edges, but its looks great and fitting for this story. Bak captures the character’s expressions with a minimal amount of detail work and lets the reader’s mind fill in the rest. In many cases, only the main characters have faces while everyone else is blank, which keeps our attention on what’s important. The coloring is fitting for this story and is done without shadows or highlights which may seem like cartoon cel shading than anything else. This would make it seem more like a kids story except that the coloring is very serious. The overall palette is very muted and has a cold corporate business feel to it with lot of blues and grays. The coloring also has a rough and unfinished look that mimics the awkwardness of this group and in some places gives added texture and mood to the story. There is an amazing use of panels and, in some cases, no panels in Night Owl Society. Characters and action words escape the confines of the panels, objects sometimes cross over from one to the next, and some scenes are divided up like tiles by the panels. It’s a welcome change from the usual layouts and an out of the box move that parallels what this team is trying to do.
The future looks good for this group of night owls. They have an interesting story as a foundation and a well balanced cast to inject some light heartedness into the darkness they are facing. Definitely pick this issue up if you have ever thought of starting your own team of crime fighters or were a member of the Breakfast Club in school.