December 17, 2020

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Night Hunters #1 Shines Bright in it's Floating World Debut

CRIME only pays if you are a cop. Be smart! Sign up now! Make money and up hold the status quo!

The year is 2057 and the place is Gran Caracas; a place and time where the prisons are nothing more than waitlisted towers of refuge and the streets collect murder rates as data measured by the hour. Night Hunters is a new miniseries published by Floating World Comics, the Portland bookstore turned independent publisher that has been a longstanding bright light on the commerce side of the comic book industry. The first issue of this comic pulls no punches in its prophetic use of a dystopian police state, and while it has been available to purchase through Floating World Comics directly it will now be available through Diamond at your local comic shop this week. Dave Baker, Alex Ziritt and Robert Negrete (the creative team responsible for this flashy cyberpunk post-apocalyptic eye candy) have brought to life a story which places a father and his two sons where they find themselves on opposite ends of an unfortunate situation flirting far too close to real-life police brutality which we have unfortunately been experiencing lately. As buildings tumble and guns unload it is pretty clear that this story was written with a very loud and very purposeful statement.




Immediately, once the comic begins, brothers Julian and Ezekiel emerge before our eyes as two very different sides of the same coin while also existing within the same space of companionship that is molded literally by their brotherhood. Their father, leading them through the treacherous streets, does his due-diligence to ensure their existence is as best that it could be despite the level of poverty that follows them. Despite their unfortunate circumstance, each brother has stark differences in their view toward the hand that monitors the chaos and enforces the order. As one brother dreams of eventually enlisting as a police officer to uphold the iniquitous peace, the other expresses his undying fear toward the figment of that same dream. While the one sees metal armed enforcers of the law as a status symbol of the strong, the other compares those uncharacteristic human apparatus’ to nothing less than a tool equipping those killing-machines. When one nearly loses his life during moments early in the story at the hands of police brutality that same one persists in the desire to become one of them. Their father with his undying love for his boys risks it all to save the boy's life. If only he were to realize where this gesture of fatherhood would lead.

 
PEACE THROUGH SUPERIOR OBEDIENCE — only one in five police altercations end in death. Gran Caracas is the safest place on Earth thanks to you, Citizen!
As story progresses we fast forward 21 years to the near end of the 21st century and our blind-faithful, Julian, has become part of that fantasy he had as a child as viewed now in a particular police unit comprised of partial cyborgs. There really is no other way to describe this part to the story other than “hell yeah!” This unit is put together with precision and they are a brutal force tasked with the duty to clean up the streets from gangs that corrupt and destroy them. It is here in the book where I realized why this comic existed and where the creative team were going with it (…at least, I’d like to think my premonition is on point).

But what happened to the father? Where did he fade off to during the last two decades in the dark and gloomy streets of Gran Caracus? He risked the life of his injured son by agreeing to the only perceivable path to saving him, but where is he now? And then there is Ezekiel? The forgotten brother who couldn't care less about the police and for all they existed for. The brother who saw past the toxic masculinity and the violence disguised as the peace-keeping police. Where has he found himself to be? To uphold a portion of the reveal to be experienced by you as the reader I will save yourself from knowing the "how's" and the "why's" to these questions so you too can be as entertained as I.

Dave Baker does a great job here with story pacing proving his ability to properly navigate a story by giving prime number of panels between separation and reintroduction of characters. Being far enough apart, a casual read would not only present the reveal during the latter as an unexpected surprise, but they are also near enough to each other that you don’t get lost weaving in and out of the plot (not to mention the previously discussed color work of Ziritt) that surrounds them. When these brothers do reunite as their older selves their loyalty will be tested; the loyalty to each other or to their chosen allegiance in the paths they’ve chosen. This debut doesn’t explicitly go there but as you read along it feels inevitable that the bond will be tested, and it goes without saying that heads will roll by the hand of peace keepers.


I cannot verbally parade long enough to explain to you how important it is that Ziritt is the illustrator for Night Hunters. There is something indescribable that is the art that comes from him. It is far from polished, but neither is it close to any suggestion of haphazard. The attention to detail and subtle stabs at augmenting Baker’s story can easily be missed due to the oh-my-god-I-cannot-stop-staring vibrance of the color work done also by Ziritt. These bright colors that help frame each panel in the story have a certain depth about it that mimics something similar to a Mattel View-Master from 1987 3-D red reel. The approach to format that makes Ziritt so incredibly unique is that he sees every last bit of everything in his mind and is determined for us to see it also. The final result are pages full of panels that incorporate details that give his story's life. The life given to his illustrations are loose, whimsical and often feel very lived-in, and by that I mean that he is gifting his readers with a world that is comfortably suitable for our gaze to get lost in. Seriously, the layouts in this comic will test the limits of your cornea keeping your eyes peeled for as long as possible.


Looking back, what we have here is a comic being staged in a dark and dirty not-so-far-off future where the police have exhausted all desire to uphold personal integrity within the boundaries of law and order. This is obvious especially as seen when Ziritt uses the word “muerte” to paint a descriptor on the helmets of the police, not to mention their painfully obvious cravings for misuse of power. As police brutality continues to be a reason for demonstrations across the country, and after what feels to be an endless witnessing of excessive force by police, this comic effectively functions as a mirror propped up to ourselves and our communities reflecting into our eyes not only what we are, but also where we might be going.

Visually, this comic is totally my style. Ziritt is doing Ziritt, and by that I mean he is drawing some next-level shit. The cyberpunk post-apocalyptic streets of what are arguably our very own future are in good hands with him. If your jam is slick and flashy, or artistically realistic then this may be a hard sell. But, while I admit I too appreciate those types of comic books, the gritty, bright, hyper-stylized comics with an ambitious story to tell like Night Hunters are what make reading comics outside the oversaturated superhero stories so important and so necessary if they are to be seen as an art form of protest rather than simply just an art form of entertainment.


Night Hunters #1
story by Dave Baker 
art by Alexis Ziritt 
letters by Robert Negrete 
published by Floating World Comics