NOCTURNAL COMMISSIONS #1, available on Kickstarter, is the latest crowd-sourced comic from Jason McNamara and Greg Hinkle. Three monsters, heading a newly-formed detective agency, work to solve a case involving one of their own. Is it a Monster Squad rip-off or a monster book with its own unique take? Let’s find out.
Hinkle receives cover artist credit, and the cover works once you understand the context and theme of the book. The lead characters are not supernatural superheroes nor uncontrollable monsters of the night. You’ll see the monsters are self-aware and uniquely personable. There’s a bit of Rock & Roll Album Cover vibe to the cover, especially since Alton the Zombie is a pretty close match to Keith Richards. Or is it Keith Richards who could pass for an undead zombie?
From left to right, the team is composed of a werewolf, a vampire, and a zombie. Hinkle’s rock-n-roll tone lets you know this group is serious, but you’re still in for a good time. I would have liked to see each monster with a little bit more monster-like attributes. For example, I couldn’t tell the vampire was a vampire until I dug into the book. This is a minor criticism, so good job overall.
McNamara wrote the inaugural issue. Except for a few bumpy spots, this was a fun read. True to the campaign’s description, McNamara wrote a very X-Files-like plot structure with the story. Without spoiling anything, a bizarre event occurs. The manager of an island resort calls in the werewolf/vampire detective team to investigate. The zombie involved in the case quickly joins the team. Campy monster shenanigans follow. I want to emphasize that this book is filled with a little camp, but not so much that it becomes corny.
McNamara’s pacing is perfect for a first issue that introduces several new characters. He transitioned each scene smoothly into the next, and his panels were never bogged down by too much dialog or exposition. If anything, I would have liked to see a few scenes filled out a little more, but that would have probably made the book too long.
McNamara could smooth out the bumpy bits, which were mostly related to the werewolf’s dialog. The werewolf is a bit of a [email protected]$$, but some of his quips don’t quite land. It’s another minor criticism, and it doesn’t affect the fun of the story at all.
McNamara’s writing is also very inventive for his unique take on the zombie model. In particular, McNamara created a type of chemical zombie with powers I had never seen before. I was impressed with the creativity of it. McNamara got me thinking about monsters in a new way that actually generated ideas about where the story could go. That’s the best compliment I can pay as a writer.
Hinkle and Paul Little have coloring duty, and their approach in this book could best be described as “mood coloring.” Hinkle and Little color the daylight scenes with lush greens and bright, sunny colors to match what you would expect on a tropical island. When bloody battles breakout, Hinkle and Little change everything to harsh shades of blood red. During the toxic laboratory flashback, the art team-colored whole panels with saturated, chemical green. In this book, Hinkle and Little are using color to push the emotion of the scene. Nicely done!
You can tell the artist and the letterer work well together. That’s because it’s also Greg Hinkle. I’m being a tad facetious, but this book is a prime example of why having the artist and letterer on the same page gives you next level results. For example, nearly every word bubble at the start of the book has no border line except for page 11. On that page, the word bubble is on top of a white car where it makes sense to separate the border of the bubble from the background. An average letterer would have put black outlines on every bubble throughout the book and left it at that. By taking the time to only use outlines where necessary, Hinkle integrates with the artwork, specifically the background colors, more cleanly. Excellent work by Hinkle.
We’re talking about monsters here, so it would have been easy to fall into cliche character designs. Hinkle, again, does great work coming up with unique designs for every character. The (evil) werewolves are sufficiently terrifying, and Hinkle’s zombie design looks gross in the best way. The vampire does transform into a bat-creature, but again, I would have liked to have seen a little more vampiric quality to his resting vamp face. Overall, Hinkle’s art for this book is top-notch for designing monsters that are both dangerous and approachable as lead characters.
NOCTURNAL COMMISSIONS #1 is a very strong start to a new indie series. McNamara and Hinkle have created a monster book with some scares, a little camp, and a lot of quality. Highly recommended for any monster lover.
Writer’s Note: Local Comic Shops (LCS) are going through a tough time right now with the pandemic outbreak of COVID-19. Comics fans of every flavor that care about his or her LCS should try to do what they can. So, here’s my part:
If you’re in Northern Delaware, South East Pennsylvania, or Southern New Jersey area, please take a moment to visit Captain Blue Hen Comics in Newark, DE. Say ‘hi,’ pick up a book, order a book (they’re on Comichub.com), and let them know you support them.
If you’re nowhere near that area, please find YOUR LCS using Comic Shop Locator and lend your support.
Thanks, and stay safe.