What strange and wonderful things lie behind the portal Jane and Heather found in the abandoned Charleswood Industrial Park? Check out the Major Spoilers Review of By Night #2 from BOOM! Studios.
Writer: John Allison
Artist: Christine Larsen
Colorist: Sarah Stern
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: July 18, 2018
Previously in By Night: High school BFF’s Jane and Heather meet up for a night of adventure and urban exploration. The estate of Chet Charles, who vanished years ago, has stopped paying its workers, and Charlesco is now completely abandoned. Off the main office, they find a mysterious closet that leads not to Narnia, but to a projection room that projects not a film, but a portal. Of course, they step through…
AS DIFFERENT AS NIGHT AND DAY
One of the things I like about By Night #2 is how our protagonists react to finding themselves in a new world. Heather is almost manically excited; Jane goes into a catastrophizing panic, thinking of the worst things that could happen to them, until Heather calms her down. Then Jane starts filming and both of them settle into the sense of wonder of this new place. Heather climbs a tree and sees lights in the misty distance, and they explore in that direction. When they meet a small green humanoid, all three of them are equally startled. Then a skeleton pops out of Gardt’s chest (Gardt being the green fellow), and starts a conversation. The skeleton is part of Gardt, and it turns out Gardt had to tell the girls something, namely that the “hairy boy” is coming. (Gardt’s grasp of English is a little idiosyncratic.) The hairy boy turns out to be a wolfman, and everyone runs until Gardt pushes the girls into a swamp.
The smell of this throws the wolfman off their track, and Gardt takes them to a different portal. They can apparently get back to Earth by going between any pair of matched objects that are “ten snakes” apart. (I love this unit of measurement; it is so weird.) Gardt pushes them through despite their questions and their desire to return. After they’re gone, the wolfman comes up behind Gardt and tells him that this cannot happen again. Hmmm. Just who is this wolfman, and what is Gardt in relation to him?
Jane gets home to find her mom waiting up for her. Heather gets home to find her dad sleeping on the couch. The next day, Jane’s mind is just not on her work, understandably. She asks her labmate, Barney, to analyze the swamp goop, and there’s nothing unusual in it. She confides in him, and ultimately asks him to come along that night. Across town, Heather sleeps in until her dad, who is currently unemployed, pesters her to wake up and then pesters her more about her not having a job. Jane and Heather are both stir-crazy enough to go back to Charlesco and try to go through the portal again. They do bring Barney along, well, far enough to stay behind while they go through the portal. He waits for them there until early morning, when the portal closes, and the girls have not returned.
REALITY, IMAGINATION, AND THE WORLD BEYOND THE PORTAL
Once again, the art in By Night #2 is expressive and somewhat cartoon-like. It does create an otherworldly locale in the land beyond the portal. I enjoy the depiction of the characters right from the start – we begin with Jane in one place and multiple Heathers, as she is absorbing everything in a slightly manic way. Then, when Jane starts to panic, it depicts the dread things she is imagining. Gardt and his skeleton are amusing, and the Wolfman is certainly very sinister.
I think one of the strengths of the art in this book is the way it shows, in a few different scenes, things that one or the other of the characters are imagining. This gives us another way into their heads a little bit and makes you feel like you know them that much better. I’m also seeing a subtle contrast with the real world having a lot of straight lines – buildings, Jane’s lab, the inside of people’s houses – and the world through the portal being almost all curvy, free-flowing lines. It’s another way to remind us where we are at any given moment.
BOTTOM LINE: FEELS LIKE WE’RE SETTING UP FOR NEXT ISSUE
While the first issue was full of background information, By Night #2 starts right in on the adventure. It’s exciting, it’s dangerous (but not uncomfortably so for an all ages book), and the characters have very human reactions. We really do care about these characters, and I am still intrigued about what they will discover next.