Pullbox Reviews: TKO Drops a Supernatural Noir Classic in Lonesome Days, Savage Nights!

Writers: Steve Niles & Salvatore Simeone

Story: Salvatore Simeone

Art: Szymon Kudranski

Letterer: Thomas Mauer

Published By: TKO Comics

Available: Now (began shipping from TKO November 9)

Price: $19.99 for the collected trade; $29.99 for the 6 individual floppies (all oversized to the traditional comic/trade)

Out now as part of TKO’s “Wave 3” offerings is the supernatural noir, will-be classic, Lonesome Days, Savage Nights, the first volume of The Manning Files by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night), Salvatore Simeone and Szymon Kudranski. The entire tale (first of hopefully many in the series) is available, as all TKO offerings are, in either trade paperback or a boxed, six-issue floppy set.

Stu Miller has seen better days.

Now a private dick, once a rookie cop, he’s scrambling to put his life back together after an unfortunate mishap got him booted from the force, the only job he ever wanted dating back to childhood. So now, instead of protecting the people and saving the children, he’s snapping clandestine photos of cheating husbands and hunting down lost things.

It’s an alright gig, though—he’s not horribly far from being a cop, and it pays the bills…such as the cost of the engagement ring he’s just bought his do-all and end-all, his savior, Audrey. The lady without whom…well, there’d be no Stu anymore.

And, he’s got a significant leg up on his job. See, he’s got a “room-mate” who travels with him, helps him out when needs be. He’s got the devil inside, to quote the late, great Michael Hutchence.

Oh, that mishap? Uh, yeah—he was bit by a werewolf.

Apparently, having a tryst with the boogeyman isn’t something that scores you points among the boys in blue, especially not as a rookie. Especially when no one else sees it.

But for getting around to places no one else can get to, seeing things no one else can see? Having the not-so-proverbial monster in your closet is kinda handy. So long as you can keep the beast in check, which some days is easier said than done. But with Audrey on board, even that’s not so hard.

So all’s good for Stu, or at least, as much can be…until the local street gang, the 3rd Street Devils and their boss, Mister Sala, intervene. Stars misalign, and Audrey—the only person who knew of Stu’s…condition…and who coached him through how to handle it, the only person Stu cares about in life—ends up dead.

What happens then?

Well, the monster’s no longer in check.

With enough shadow and grit that you might need to wash your face and brush your teeth afterward, Lonesome Days, Savage Nights is a Dashiell Hammett meets Universal Monsters pulp noir masterpiece. Salvatore Simeone’s tale, as spun by Simeone and Steve Niles, weaves the classic werewolf mythos into an ebon dark story of pain, regret and revenge that left me with a nasty thirst for more. Plumbing all the happy, fuzzy feels of a true dark pulp (despair, rage, wrath, loss—you know, all the fun ones), Niles and Simeone fluidly work in A Clockwork Orange-esque ultraviolence, the requisite ubiquitous mob presence and a not-so-happy to be leashed monster into a straight jacket-tight tale. Brisk, taught dialogue and a vengeance-tinged narrative from a decidedly flawed narrator render for us a helluva story.

All of which means less than an empty box of Cracker Jacks if the art isn’t up to snuff.

Thankfully, the art’s more than up to snuff.

Szymon Kudranski (Batman: The Dark Knight; The Punisher), who does his own coloring as well as the line work, offers up a masterful job, capturing every nuance, every shadow of Simeone and Niles’ tale. Frequent close-ups on expressions, deep shadows abounding, Kudranski plays with perspective and light throughout, to marvelous effect. And oh my goodness, does he master expression. You can almost taste the dank smoke of the story, the stale cigarettes and copper-scented air. This is pulp done right. I’d put him right up with Francesco Francavilla as masters of modern pulp-horror.

And I want to be clear: it’s easy to overdo the whole hard-boiled, film noir style, and lose a story within the atmosphere it’s immersed in. Or go completely overboard, and end up with a caricature—and let’s face it, a noir revenge tale with werewolves can easily lend itself to such maltreatment. No such issue here. Niles, Simeone and Kudranski utterly nail it, maintaining just the right balance of gloom, barely-contained rage and horror providing the gravitas the story needs.

Thomas Mauer’s task as letterer on this one is fairly straight-forward: a noir isn’t about flashy words and POW!s and BAM!s. He has a little fun with the occasional sound effect, integrating them perfectly into Kudranski’s art, and otherwise keeps thing clean and evenly flowing without any of the dialogue or narrative boxes disrupting the flow or atmosphere.

All told, this is an awesome book, well worthy of a rainy, late-night read with the lights down low and a tumbler of Johnnie Walker Black at your side (or maybe some really dark cran-grape juice, if you’re of the not-quite-21 club). Without doubt, Lonesome Days, Savage Nights is one of the better graphics I’ve read in the past couple years, and I can’t promote it more heartily.

Now, do let me get this out there (and I apologize that us ‘boxers have been beating this drum a while now, but it bears a lot of repeating): TKO is putting out some of the best quality material in the industry today. Writing, art, story certainly—but also production quality. When you order one of these folks’ books, you’re getting a significant piece for your money. Larger sized than the standard comic (and trade) and of significantly superior paper weight and quality, they are real works of art in and of themselves. And the fact that you’re directly supporting creator-owned books and art is some seriously nice icing on an outstanding cake.

AND if you act now (or, you know, in the not too too distant future), you can sign up for TKO’s email newsletter, and get a coupon good for 20% off your first order with them, bringing their price down into the ridiculously low, you’re losing money by not buying it level. So get to ordering, pilgrim, and make sure to tell ‘em the Pullbox sent you!

13/13

Review by Andy Patch

Contributing Editor

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