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Anyone want to check the closets and beneath the bed for me? – Night Force #9

July 26, 2010

I bought this book for a quarter. Night Force is a title I know nothing about, and even after reading this issue I’m none the wiser. It took a trip to Wikipedia to get the overall gist of the thing. But I saw that Gene Colan was the illustrator, and I thought “Colan+Horror=Me taking a chance and buying it.”

I know, I’m a real high roller.

Night Force had a set stable of characters, but they were largely absent from this tale and only appeared in a few panels far away from the action. Instead, in “Symbiosis,” by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan and Bob Smith, we focus on one man thrown into the midst of unspeakable horror:

The word “Lovecraftian” has become an overused cliche, but this lumbering beast would seem to fit the bill.

Paul Brooks, our “protagonist,” is a vile criminal, but at least he’s a man of action:

Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t seem that his usual way of solving things (gunplay) is going to work.

So Paul is in this house, but he’s not the only person there. And all these people are trapped, and now he is too:

These folks are in some sort of boarding house/apartment building, and they just walk around the beast like it’s a fixture. It only does one thing — it keeps them there inside:

There’s a woman living there (or imprisoned there as the case may be) named Sylvia, and she’s part of a nuclear family (husband, wife, son) that’s trapped. She tells Paul how the creature provides for every need and material desire:

The husband, Ray, just sits in front of the TV — he’s been broken. But Sylvia still has some fight in her, and this gets Paul’s creep juices flowing. He tries to put the moves on her, but she rebuffs him. They end up smacking each other — classy guy, this Paul. Then he stalks off and meets some of the other denizens — or prisoners — of the house, and one dirty hippie meets a juicy end:

Yuck. So we learn that the creature can do more than just sit around.

This display only increases Paul’s resolve to get the heck out of there, but he’s at a loss for how to make his escape. He’s tried everything, including pounding the thing with his bare fists. He still has the gun, but that’s proven useless against the creature. Ray, the broken husband, finds a use for it, though — to end his own life, which he does after bopping Paul over the head and swiping it:

Again it’s snack time for the creature:

And that’s it.

Well…I kind of dig this book. There’s a mystery to the origins of this creature that I really like. There are some allusions in this issue to it having done similar things on other worlds to other sentient species, but its motivations are unknown throughout. Add to that its gobbling up of dead bodies and crapping out bones, which is a nice disgusting touch. Colan’s shadowy artwork has always been well-suited for horror, and that’s on clear display here. And a mentally shattered father blowing his head off in front of his wife and son — I think that qualifies as harrowing.

There are a lot of elements working in this issue’s favor. For a quarter, it was a pleasant surprise.

I don’t know how this story ends (or how it began and how Paul got inside the building), and I think that there’s something to be said for not knowing the ending to some stories. I can remember as a kid reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but only ever having enough time to get up to that first trip into the snow covered forest of Narnia. Then I’d have to put it down, and when I picked it up again I’d start back at the beginning and retrace my steps until roughly the same point in the story. Then the cycle would repeat. Years later, when I finally read the whole thing, some of the magic was lost, the mystery.

I’m not claiming that this is a Wardrobe level story, but I think I’ll let this one lie. I don’t think any answers will increase my enjoyment. The key to horror is not knowing — there’s nothing more frightening than something you don’t (or can’t) understand. So if anyone tries to clue me in as to what the monster is, I’ll just put my hands over my ears and do the “Na Na Na I’m not listening” bit.

Sweet dreams.

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