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Fanboy of Fear Chris Gage Review by
Chris Gage
Marvel Comics
WRITER: Robert Weinberg
ARTIST: Tom Derenick
4-issue miniseries
2.99 each

These days, a popular sub-genre in horror comics is the horror-superhero book, which basically tells a superhero type story in a horror setting. I've never felt these two genres merged particularly well: usually the result either feels like a superhero story with some token horror window-dressing, or a horror story that would have been better without the superhero elements. But in NIGHTSIDE, Robert Weinberg and Tom Derenick turn in one of the better efforts in this hybrid genre that I've seen to date.

As a writer myself, I often tend to focus on the writing in my reviews, so let me start here by talking about the art, which is excellent. Tom Derenick, who handles both pencils and inks, combines the strong line of Russ Heath with the dynamic sense of movement of Mark Texeira. He manages to merge an evocative moodiness that suits a horror story with the strong action scenes of a superhero book, and make them work together. In the hands of another artist, this book might not have succeeded. I look forward to seeing a lot more by this artist.

Robert Weinberg's story is based on the premise that all supernatural creatures: from vampires to werewolves to ogres and beyond; are part of the same race, known as The Others. The Others live undetected among us, functioning almost entirely at night. They refer to our daylight world as "Dayside" and their own nighttime realm as NIGHTSIDE. In New York, the Nightside has been divided Mafia-style into five "families", each run by a
boss. As this mini-series begins, the bosses are being killed, each murder bearing the m.o. of one of the other families. All-out gang war seems imminent.

Into this tinderbox strides private investigator Sydney Taine, a human who is aware of the existence of Nightside and has no fear of its denizens: partly because of her own formidable fighting skill, and partly because of her huge associate, Ape Largo, who can put a scare into even the creatures of the night. Sydney claims to have been hired by the Nightside's governing body, the East Coast Council, to find out what's going on and put a stop to it, before New York is embroiled in a conflict that will violate Rule Number One: do not reveal our existence to the humans, because they would exterminate us. It turns out there is an Asian gang called the Black Dragon Society instigating the war, led by their terrifying Princess. Sydney must combine politics and ass-kicking to cool things out before all hell literally breaks loose.

There's a lot to like here. I got a kick out of the Godfather-inspired premise, and the idea of portraying supernatural creatures as members of a sub-race of humanity that live secretly among us is one I've always been intrigued by (I used it in my movie THE BREED). Sydney Taine, mouth-wateringly drawn by Derenick, is sultry and tough, but also smart, playing the sides off against each other and out-scheming the schemers; she's definitely a cut above other characters in the tired bad-girl mold.

Weinberg's dialogue can get a bit expository at times, and there isn't a hell of a lot of character development going on, but I'm inclined to give the guy a break: he has a whole world to introduce and a complex story to tell, all in four issues. And he does so in an entertaining, fast-moving fashion, deftly balancing plot, action and mood in a story that moves quickly and entertains, reading like a good genre movie in the vein of BLADE. I know first-hand how tough it is to combine several genres: in this case, horror, superhero, and detective film noir; into a package that works; Weinberg gets respect for pulling it off.

I'm giving NIGHTSIDE three rabid fanboys instead of four because it's a little like Chinese food: tasty, but not very filling. However, now that the foundation has been laid in this first series, I suspect Weinberg will be able to give us more substantial, character-oriented tales in future episodes: and indeed, Marvel recently announced that there will be a second

NIGHTSIDE miniseries in the near future. Hopefully it will be one of many.

Review copyright 2002 by E.C.McMullen Jr.

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