By Night, Volume One is the newest comic from writer John Allison from the Boom! Box line of Boom Studios. He is joined by artist Christine Larsen, colorist Sarah Stern, and letterer Jim Campbell. If Allison’s name sounds familiar it’s because he is the writer behind the award-winning Giant Days, which wrapped up last year. While Giant Days is a realistic fiction story focusing on the life of university students, By Night is a completely different animal. It’s an adventure mystery story with Allison’s well-known wit shining through.
The plot focuses on two ex-friends that had gone their separate ways in college. Now they’re both back in their small hometown of Spectrum, South Dakota, where not much ever happens. Spectrum was once a booming manufacturing town fueled by business tycoon Chet Charles’s company Charlesco. When Charles mysteriously disappeared, his factory slowly wound down and people moved away. Jane had hopes of being a film documentarian, but now she’s just a college grad with student loans who lives at home with her parents while working in a boring medical lab. Flighty Heather dropped out of college just shy of graduating with a dual degree in philosophy and marine biology. Heather reconnects with Jane who begrudgingly agrees to go to the local bar where they find Heather’s dad, Chip, celebrating with his coworkers. They’ve just been laid off from Charlesco where they worked security for the past twenty-five years. Heather steals her father’s keys and convinces Jane to go urban exploring at the Charleswood Estate that houses Chalesco. She lures Jane into the adventure by saying she should bring her film gear so they can make a documentary.
The adventure begins when the pair find a locked filed cabinet in Chet Charles’s office. While looking for something to pry it open they find a secret door in a supply closet that leads to what looks to be a movie theater with a weird projector. Heather tries to wrench off a lever to use as a crowbar. Instead, she starts up the machine which leads to the ceiling opening to reveal the moon and the night sky. Then the projector starts up and a portal to another dimension opens! Jane, of course, does not want to go through until Heather pushes that this could be the material she’s looking to document on film. Through the portal they go, where they end up in a fantasy land and meet a green gremlin/troll character named Gardt who helps them escape a scary wolf-man and get back home. The rest of the story follows the pair roping Jane’s friend at the lab, Barney, and Heather’s dad into this adventure. It’s clear there’s more going on at the Charleswood Estate and through the inter-dimensional portal than any of them could ever know.
By Night is an intriguing comic, but the first volume leads the reader to have more questions than it answers, which is a good lure to read the second volume. It’s interesting, because the characters are not really interested in the disappearance of Chet Charles, but the reader should be, with all the clues that are dropped. This comic is slanted toward teen readers. They may not get the 80s television references from the gremlin/troll creature who we find out was friends with Chet. The art is reminiscent of Giant Days, but different enough to make this comic stand alone. I really liked how Larsen draws the inter-dimensional portal with patches of purple mixed with swirls of an inky night sky. The colors are more muted than you would expect from an Allison comic, but it makes sense for the atmosphere of a dying small-town setting and the nighttime scenes in another dimension.
By Night, vol. One
By John Allison
Art by Christine Larsen
Boom Studios, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Teen