The Night Club (#1 – 4) – Mike Baron

2 out of 5

Here’s where I judge a book, in part, by its cover: The Night Club is copyrighted to Mike Baron and artist Mike Norton, the latter credited as a co-creator.  And when a creator or co-creator leaves the project, I raise an almighty eyebrow in question.

Norton hangs on through issue 2, although it seems like he’s likely just doing layouts at that point, with pencils handed off to Harim Whalem, who, unfortunately, has a very loosey-goosey style that seems to miss a lot of the cues in the writing and lacks focus.  Robbi Rodriguez takes over for the final two issues, bringing some solidity back, but by that point, Baron has included too many kitchen sinks in the story to catch up, and there are at least 18 million too many ideas to properly illustrate.

Whatever the reasons for Norton jumping ship – maybe it was just other obligations, who knows – it makes an indirect mark on me, as a reader.  A CBR preview / interview at the time has Norton’s pitch for the series as, essentially, a group of people get together to save the world, which is like 98% percent of comics already out there, so maybe he just wasn’t expecting the nutball nth-directions Baron would take things.  Setting all of that ‘who knows’ reasoning aside, the artists that continue on after Norton aren’t of the same quality, so the book has a double indirect whammy of feeling somewhat abandoned.

Which leaves Mike to toil in his own nonsense stew, bloating a small-ish concept of several gifted strangers (psi-powers, tech powers, etc.) battling demons and zombies into a wild-ass conspiracy that namechecks Lovecraft for no reason, replaces the president with a demon for no reason, and has a motorcycle turn in to a snake.  (…For reasons?)  At points, the book broaches the line of insanity to enjoyable insanity, but the limited artistry and some poor edits and a wholly rushed ending keep it rather tamped down into the dumb zone.

It starts out fairly promising, with everyone brought together in a bar surrounded by said zombos, with the nice twist that the world seems aware of the creatures and is just kinda shrugging them off, but even within the first issue, Baron seems to forget he was using a first person narrator, and the second issue pretty immediately forgets everything else that was going on in favor of them kitchen sinks.

Readable; enjoyably messy at select points.