I remember when “Nightbreed” was released in theatres; the idea looked great, with a hidden city of monstrous-looking beings, but even then I’d heard rumblings that creator Clive Barker was less than thrilled with the end result. It had an amazing soundtrack from Danny Elfman, though, and soon afterwards there were “Nightbreed” comics that I couldn’t quite justify buying on a limited budget but seemed like a lot of fun. It’s nice to see the property return to comics now, and with “Clive Barker’s Nightbreed” #1 having Barker co-authoring with Marc Andreyko, it’s clear that Barker’s going to try and make sure that his vision is a little more closely adhered to this time around.
If you’re like me and never saw the original “Nightbreed” film, you’re in luck: Barker and Andreyko have wisely set most of the comic in the past; part in 1857 Louisiana, the rest in 1945 Boston. Here, we meet two of the different Nightbreed that will eventually enter their city of Midian. The Louisiana section feels a little by the numbers, with two runaway slaves in the bayou who are caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place. The monster-in-the-swamp sequence is very standard and feels a little too familiar.
On the other hand, the Boston sequence seems to have much more life and spark. The idea of a senator secretly visiting a member of the Nightbreed on some level also has a bit of familiarity, but there’s an energy to the sequence, perhaps because it plays on the ideas of class that are surrounding the senator and also emphasizes that many find beauty in the Nightbreed rather than terror. It’s a much more interesting take on these supposed “monsters” and hopefully we’ll get a bit more focus on that story before long.
Piotr Kowalski, fresh off of “Marvel Knights: Hulk,” is drawing “Clive Barker’s Nightbreed.” He’s a good artist, with the shock and terror on the runaway slaves’ faces being what sells that sequence as much as it can be. The Boston sequence really comes to life, though, through not only its people but the architecture. I love the look of the house that Senator Emery visits, both interior and exterior. The peaked roof and side tower, the lush furnishings, the hidden stairwell — it’s all lovingly and excellently drawn. The senator and the people inside look good too, don’t get me wrong, but you really do feel like they’re in the lap of luxury thanks to Kowalski’s art.
“Clive Barker’s Nightbreed” #1 is off to a solid start, enough to make me want to read a second issue. Hopefully we’ll shift back into the present sooner or later and get to see the city of Midian for more than just a tiny glimpse; for now, though, the setup works well enough. If like me, you’d always heard about “Nightbreed” but never experienced it, this feels like a good place to begin.