(W) Ed Brubaker (a) Sean Phillips
The most consistently brilliant creative team in comics are back.
And again, they continue to break new ground, eschewing the traditional single issue format of release, and they serve us up a fully formed, original graphic novel. And it may be a break from their excellent Reckless series, but it is every bit as engrossing and atmospheric as the adventures of Ethan Reckless.
I should also state, that I’m a big fan of listening to movie scores while reading books, and this just screamed the Blue Velvet soundtrack to me from the one and only Angelo Badalamenti. Suffice to say, it was a marriage made in heaven.
In Europe on a business trip, Jonathan Webb can’t sleep. Instead, he finds himself wandering the night in a strange foreign city with his new friend, the mysterious and violent Rainer, as his guide. Rainer shows Jonathan the hidden world of the night, a world without rules or limits.
If I were to compare Night Fever to any of Brubaker & Phillips other work, it would be Fatale. The reason being is that Night Fever doesn’t conform to any one genre. It’s a voyeuristic thriller. It has hints of the Supernatural. It’s a mid life crisis story. It’s a detective story. It’s a murder mystery. It’s a journey into the unknown.
And it’s utterly compelling. Brubaker has always been a master of pacing, and keeping you turning the pages. There’s great character work here, with our point of view character (I hesitate to call him a protagonist given everything he gets up to in the book) perhaps the most flawed of all, and there’s an intriguing mystery that you just want to get to the bottom of. You want to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes that Webb has fallen down, and you’re also unsure the whole way through if he will make it out.
Phillips art (that’s both Sean on pencils and Jacob on colours) is up there with the best work these guys have produced. There are brilliant panel layouts, detailed characters, lush colours and dread and atmosphere dripping off of every page.
They paint a world beyond our own. Not quite otherworldly, but definitely layers that only the rich and beautiful can access. It evokes comparisons with Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, another tale where we follow the woefully unprepared into the darkness, where their curiosity may just destroy them.
Given Reckless is Brubaker and Phillips current odyssey, Night Fever could easily be viewed as a lesser work. A palate cleanser in between the arcs of Reckless, to reset and recharge the creative juices. But it is absolutely nothing of the sort, and is arguably up there with the best work they have ever produced. The sense of dread and tension falls off every page, and this is the type of book delivered by absolute masters of their craft.