Venturing beyond the portal, this time it’s serious. Jane and Heather bring Barney and Chip along, as well as better filming equipment and…80’s nostalgia things?
Writer: John Allison
Artist: Christine Larsen
Colorist: Sarah Stern
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: September 19, 2018
Previously in By Night: After Heather and Jane went missing, Barney went to see Heather’s father, Chip, to tell him about the portal. Chip was suspicious at first, but after a hearty breakfast, went back to Charlesco with Barney. In Chet Charles’ office, they found plans for odd things, including the lunar projector, and Project Golf, another project that used moon power. They also found out that Dr. Grammercy, Jane and Barney’s employer, was the lead scientist on it.
ONCE MORE THROUGH THE PORTAL
As By Night #4 opens, Jane and Barney are watching Dr. Grammercy and Barney convinces Jane that they cannot tell him what they know. Barney is just a little paranoid. But the day soon ends, and they meet up with Chip and Heather and head for Charlesco. This time, Barney has figured out how to make a gizmo that will turn on the projector at nightfall, so they won’t get stuck. They’ve got the camera, lights, and a boom mic. As Jane bleakly says, if things go badly and they only find their skeletons, at least they will look like they were a film crew. They also have Red Vines, a toy “Fall Guy” truck, and an “A-Team Sounds” keychain…
The reason for these soon becomes clear. They find Gardt, who eagerly accepts these offerings as sufficient payment to forget how naughty they were last time, and to agree to take them on another tour. He joyfully eats the Red Vines and runs around playing with the truck, as the A-Team keychain in his pocket periodically vocalizes. (Probably thanks to Gardt’s skeleton.) Gardt is their guide, but he’s also a problem. He pops up in every scene Jane films. Heather thinks this would be awesome in the final cut; Jane does not.
Gardt also sternly reminds them of “the incident” last time. Heather brushes this off, but we see that this is their encounter with the dark spirits we last saw in an indistinct picture.
Gardt shows them nymphs at play, and pops into a few more of Jane’s shots. Heather pulls her aside, and tells her she recognizes where they are, and that they are close to the vampire cave (the site of “the incident”). Chip and Gardt strike up a conversation about 80’s TV, and Gardt mentions a friend of his who had a “shining square” and a Beta-Max. The girls get Barney’s attention (while Gardt is distracted) so they can try to film the vampires. It isn’t easy to get a good shot, and Heather ends up dropping Jane into the pit among dozens of vampires. Fortunately, they seem to be asleep. At least, until Gardt and Chip show up and Gardt’s new keychain pipes up.
Chip and Gardt leap in to help her. The lights that Chip is holding seem to deter them, as well as the headlights on Gardt’s toy truck. The vampires slink back into their cave, hissing Gardt’s name. This is the last straw for Gardt, who drags Heather, Jane, Barney, and Chip off to a shortcut to the portal. He doesn’t want them there anymore. He won’t give them any more tours. He is glad to have met Chip, who reminds him of his friend with the Beta-Max, a friend named Chet. The humans leave, and four-winged owl-like creature comes to get Gardt, who is in trouble because of the humans.
STRAYING FROM THE PATH
One of the things I respect in the storytelling of By Night #4 is that the creative team is taking some to reveal the world through the portal to us. Seeing tantalizing bits of it just makes it that much more interesting. We do see some new things in that world – the nymphs are cute, although kind of bug-like. The vampire cave is surrounded by all kinds of exotic skulls which hint at the weird variety of creatures living around there. The vampires themselves are sinuous and just a bit on the creepy side.
A strength in the art is the expressions. It just adds so much to the storytelling. We see it especially in the character development for Gardt. While he may come across as exuberant and child-like, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have feelings. He misses his friend Chet, and that has to be Chet Charles. We were already suspecting he was here, or at least had been. And now we know, again through Gardt, that humans are a problem in this world.
BOTTOM LINE: THE LESSONS NOT LEARNED
By Night #4 lets us savor the mystery of the world through the portal. Heather and Jane have misstepped on their previous trips, and they do it yet again. Without realizing it, they’ve landed Gardt in trouble. They’ve had to leave, but we know they’ll return – the portal is irresistible. But if they don’t have Gardt to guide them what’s going to happen to them? And what is going to happen to Gardt?