Monday, July 02, 2007

And now it's time for a comic, that will probably confirm for most of you that I'm not all here. Well, I don't care. I liked the Night Man.
You have to admit, for a 90's costume that's pretty restrained. I was expecting about three times as many pouches alone.
I love that he's stuck with a power that sounds interesting, and maybe even useful, at least at first: Johnny Domino, jazz musician, gets hit by a cable car and a chunk of metal lodged in his brain. He ends up unable to sleep and with his eyes dilated a bit, but no other ill effects. Once he gets out of the hospital though, he realizes he can hear other people's evil thoughts.

Even putting aside most people probably don't think they're evil even when they're waist deep in atrocities, it still doesn't seem that helpful, does it? Johnny gets his ass jumped twice in the first issue alone by evildoers who acted without really thinking. But it's a bloody great storytelling engine (to steal John Seavey's term) as Johnny could be anywhere: at a show, at a restaurant, buying groceries, then hear evil being planned, and bam! It's off to the races.

The problem is, Johnny can't take the tack that I would with his powers, mainly walking the streets with a lead pipe and hitting every evildoer I 'heard' in the kneecaps. ("You! Pay those taxes! You! Quit cheating on your wife! You! Stop it! Just stop!") That would make for a short, but highly entertaining crimefighting career, before I was locked up and medicated full of things ending in 'zine.'
I was going to say this was like superhero Mythbusters, but it's kind of more like Jackass.
So, Johnny starts down the road of costumed vigilantism, in a trial-and-error fashion. In short order, he learns most cornices can't support a full-grown man on a four-story drop, infrared lenses will shatter if you land on your face, and capes look cool and are snuggily warm. (And doesn't Darick Robertson draw nice teeth? Better than Spider Jerusalem's snaggily ones in Transmetropolitan.)

Conveniently, Johnny's a cop's son, which not only gives him access to police information, but he also had aikido training from the age of 5. Which does at least save us yet another training montage, I suppose. He's also not afraid to just shoot a guy (or at least wing 'em), which strikes me as a completely logical response if you can hear someone thinking. Again, I probably would've gone insane with violence inside of twenty minutes, although I know I would have a lower tolerance for people's petty, evil thoughts. Johnny should count his blessings that he just hears 'evil,' and not 'stupid.' Or worse.

Granted, a lot of things in this comic aren't perfect: Steve Englehart's jazz fixation doesn't seem to add much, except cheesy one-liners, although I admit what I don't know about jazz could and probably does fill a record store. How many cops own amusement parks? (Hmm, Johnny has the same hair color as longtime X-Men nuisance Arcade. There's a crossover that hasn't been suggested before, I'm sure.) And shouldn't Johnny be pretty insane without sleep? (Short answer: no, through the magic of comic book medicine. The 'sleep center' of his brain was destroyed, so he couldn't sleep anymore but didn't need to, and he meditated a few hours a night to rest.)

If remembered at all, Night Man's probably known for his syndicated TV show. I'm going to be charitable and call it limited--by the budget and the constraints of special effects. ("Grappling hooks are hard to set up, and would mean more exterior shots...what if he could fly?") And once Marvel bought the Malibuverse...ugh. Little says the 90's more than a guest-spot from Gambit, which I'm pretty sure was the last time I willingly bought something with Gambit in it.
Oh, it gets better:  the back-up feature is Gambit's dad.  Yeah.
Actually...maybe not. I'd have to look up the dates, but I did buy a Gambit Annual because it had a Nightcrawler appearance. Even though it was square in the middle of his 'Father Kurt' phase. It's a terrible, terrible comic, part of the retroactive insertion of Gambit into the Mutant Massacre story from several years before his first appearance. Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde, and Angel all guest; and all were severely injured during the Massacre. I was hoping to see them retroactively kick Gambit's ass sideways.

And we're off the tracks again, so, in closing: Night Man was cooler than you think, and Gambit sucks even more than you had imagined. He sucks from before his creation now, if you can believe it. From The Night Man #1, written by Steve Englehart, pencilled by Darick Robertson, inked by Andrew Pepoy.

(Marvel's handling of Malibu's books was like, if you had a friend that drove professionally, had several of his own cars that were in great shape, and knew how to get a lot of mileage out of a vehicle. So you lend him your car and he drives it around the block, cracks the block, then blows it up. Like Ghost and Static, Night Man's comic universe is more or less lost and gone forever.)

Gambit Annual 2000 was written by Fabian Nicieza with art by Cam Smith, Thomas Derencik, and Eric Cannon; all of whom I'm sure have done better, non-Gambit work.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

Gosh, Night Man. Now that's a name I haven't heard in a long time. I only remember him vaguely, but it does sound like an interesting idea.

I've NEVER liked Gambit, so I'm glad...GLAD that he's supposed to be dead. Probably won't take though. Too bad.