What lies beyond the mysterious portal in this tale about Jane Langstaff’s life after college, the economic collapse of her hometown, and reconnecting with her former best friend?
Writer: John Allison
Artist: Christine Larsen
Colorist: Sarah Stern
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: 6/13/2018
Jane has a Masters in Chemistry and now has a job back in her hometown of Spectrum, SD. She’s dealing with the drudgery of her work and the realization that she may never live her dream of making documentaries, when she runs into Heather, her best friend from high school. Heather was the wild child of the pair, and it seems she still is, but what does this mean for Jane in By Night #1?
THE DAY THE PAST CAME BACK
By Night #1 introduces us to Jane Langsgtaff, a chemist, whose current job is mainly washing test tubes. So much for her teenage dreams of film making, as her lab partner Barney points out. It feels like this is a typical day for her. She goes out for lunch and runs into her old friend Heather, whom she hasn’t seen in years (and has been avoiding), sitting on the steps of her lab. They catch up awkwardly, and Jane makes her excuses to leave. Heather invites her out for a drink after work, and Jane agrees, but this chance meeting shakes her up enough that she forgets to eat lunch. This scene did a good job capturing the feeling of growing apart from an old friend.
Heather is back again after work, ready to let loose and get a little crazy – like when they were high school seniors, except that now they’re old enough to drink. She and Jane go to a local dive that’s pretty dead – line dancing has been canceled for the evening. As it happens, Heather’s dad is there with some of his friends from work. They’ve gotten fired, and here’s where things start to get a little odd. They worked at the business of Chet Charles, the man who built the town and its major business. Chet vanished years ago, and his estate has paid – for twenty-five years – for these guys to guard it. Two things happen – Heather starts talking Jane into exploring the old estate, doing a little “urban exploration,” and we see that Heather’s dad set up the plan for her to meet Jane. I love a story with interesting plot threads, and this sets up a couple potential mysteries.
At this point in By Night #1, Jane is still not totally convinced. We get some nice character development setting Jane up as being more straight-laced and by-the-rules, and Heather as the more daring and adventurous type. Heather plays on Janes emotions, and before too long, they are on the Charleswood Estate, in the Charlesco factory. There is a good use of an old video they used to watch when, as kids, they came here on school tours, to fill us in on background. There is a lot we need to know, and this is a smooth way to present it. Heather leads Jane further in, to Chet Charles’ old office, tempting her with trying to find out why he never came back from his fact-finding mission twenty-five years ago. Instead, they find he had a secret movie theater. They accidentally turn on the projector, and it shows a kind of weird, hyper-realistic scene that is no movie – it is a portal.
FLAVORFUL AND ENERGETIC
By Night #1 covers a lot of ground. The art is clean and straight-forward. The settings give us just enough detail that it is always clear where we are. We can see what the characters are thinking, which is important in a book like this where characters are saying one thing and feeling something else. I could feel Jane’s reluctance to meet with Heather and go along with her all the way through. Heather is really interesting – so many emotions cross her face that it’s hard to tell how much of what she is saying is honest and how much it is her being manipulative. I think there is good use of different shots (angles, close-ups, long shots, etc.) throughout, which is especially effective when one the underlying plot threads is that one of our protagonists wanted to make films.
BOTTOM LINE: A STRONG START FOR AN INTRIGUING SUPERNATURAL STORY
Clearly, By Night #1 is a supernatural story, but it starts out with a firm grounding in a reality we understand and can identify with. This dichotomy gives us the contrast that makes the supernatural feel all that much more eerie and exciting. And then there’s the question of whether (and how much) Heather has known about the portal, and why it was so important to bring Jane in. Are there good things, or bad, or both in store?