Night Owl Society #1
Writer: James Venhaus
Art: Pius Bak
Letterer: Marshall Dillon
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Reviewed by Greg Brothers
Many times, people do not realize all the work that goes into a comic book. Most independent books are labors of love where hours and hours of work go into creating a comic that may take years before it sees the light of day, if it is ever seen by a comic book fan at all. Take Night Owl Society for example. Venhaus who is a school teacher by day put out issue 1 via a Kickstarter way back in 2014. Two year later IDW publishing agreed to reissue Night Owl Society #1 and publish the rest of the three-part series.
Night Owl Society #1 starts as we meet David who is going over his timing of sneaking out of his house and how he can get home without any of his family ever finding out he was gone. Although that first night ran into some hiccups he could make his practice run without derailing part one of the plan. Now that part one of the plan has been set, it is time to move onto part two, which is to put together his team. It is during the assembling of his team that we find out that the purpose of the team is to take down and expose a local mob boss who is responsible for the murder of a local friend. Oh, did I mention that David and his team of strangers that he is putting together are all high school students?
You can tell that Venhaus works with students daily as he really nails the attitude and the nuances that come along with the typical teenagers. The dialogue between the students feels natural and the word choice is what you would find any high school student using. I like how he does take some of those high school stereotypes and turns them, such as the high school jock who instead of participating in bullying David wants to join his “Superhero” team. Each of these stereotypes are represented in the team with the leader, the Jock, the Computer expert, the gothic girl, and finally the cute popular girl. Each of them bring their strengths to the team, and serve a purpose other than just being there.
The narrative of the book jumps back and forth between David putting together his team and the local mob getting ready for an important shipment. It is a terrific way to break up the story and allows the reader to get to know both the high school kids and the mob without being overwhelmed with information. The parallel story lines become important later in the book as the reveal at the end is made.
While I do not know, what choices came from the Venhaus and which ones were Bak’s choices the design of the students also hits many of the looks you would expect based on what stereotypes they represent. Even things of using an actual laptop during their mission, or the limits of what they could use to protect their identities feel right here. The pages are a classic panel layout which works well for the story as panels that are more important can be made bigger and more prominent. Bak’s art is based in reality with stature of the characters that is typical of teenagers. The backgrounds are basic however they serve the purpose of giving context and providing depth to the characters. The difference in coloring from the school panels to the panels in the middle of the night do an excellent job of making to easier for the reader to follow where they are in the narrative.
Buy! When I picked up and started reading this book I could not help but compare it to 4 Kids Walk into a Bank. Quickly though I found out despite the similarity between using Teenagers looking for justice this book stands on its own. Night Owl Society #1 has a sense of realism that can only be written by someone who is around teenagers daily. All the typical nuances that exist are on display perfectly. The idea that these diverse types of students can overcome their differences and work together to stop the bad guys in their town is a story that we need these days. I for one am hooked by Bak’s art and Venhaus’s writings.