I don’t think a lot of people have heard of Dan Brereton before, and that’s a real shame, because he’s definitely one of the most expressive comic artists out there.
I actually picked up the Nocturnals mostly as a whim. I’d browsed through it before and I liked what I saw. The whole graphic novel wasn’t drawn so much as it was painted, and the whole thing was gorgeous. If nothing else, it was certainly a departure from your typical superhero thing.
The Nocturnals’ story actually begin in the middle, in an earth where synthetic humans are used as guards, while hybrids of human and animal tissues are made as genetic experiments by the Narn K Corporation (aka the Monster Shop), and kept under tight lock and key. As one of the hybrids (named Komodo) attempts an escape from his captors, he is rescued by a gun-toting corpse (you’ll get introduced to him later on). Soon, we are introduced to the rest of the crew, from the burly Phestus, to the mischievous Eve (aka Halloween Girl), and the leader of the Nocturnals himself, Doc Horror. We also get to see Procyon Cleanhands, otherwise known as the Raccoon, the first hybrid who escaped from the Monster Shop and made a name for himself in the underworld.
After the introductions are over and done with, we are soon plunged into a world of gangsters, hybrids, shadowy dealings behind the Narn K, and a mysterious breed of octopi-like creatures known as the “Crim”. Everyone in the story relates to each other on a certain level, and once you get a feel for it, they all click together perfectly, like pieces of a puzzle.
As expected, the mysterious Narn K Corporation provides the villain of the story, represented by the enigmatic Fane, who appears to have a clinical, almost scientifically antagonistic relation to Doc Horror.
The story itself isn’t remarkably fast-paced, but it does manage to go fairly deep into some of the characters’ backstory, including who Doc Horror actually is, and how he ended up on earth. It also allows you to get a feel for his crew, and of their distinct personalities and relationships to each other, even the newly liberated Komodo.
Incredibly enough, Nocturnals: Black Planet was actually Brereton’s first attempt at writing a story, and what he’s created is a unique tale that presents science fiction in a whole different light. The whole novel actually feels as if it could have been part of a series of illustrations for an old sci-fi horror movie, right down to Doc Horror’s laboratory. The Crim especially reeks of influence from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.
All in all, I’d definitely recommend Nocturnals: Black Planet to anyone who’s looking for a refreshing change of pace in the graphic novels section. The unique style of art in which the story is presented certainly deserves a mention in its own right too. My only gripe is that a few of the pages looked a tad blurry and washed-out in terms of color, but they certainly don’t detract from the rest of the book.
Nocturnals: Black Planet collects the first 6 issues of The Nocturnals, which was originally published in 1995 by Malibu Comics.
Written and Illustrated by: Dan Brereton