Nathaniel Dusk #1 (1984)

Nathaniel Dusk #1 (February, 1984)
“Lovers Die at Dusk”
Writer/Co-Creator – Don McGregor
Artist/Co-Creator – Gene Colan
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Tom Ziuko
Editor – Alan Gold
Cover Price: $1.25

Sort of a timely entry with Nathaniel Dusk.

If you’re reading the (excellent) Doomsday Clock maxiseries, you’ll be familiar with the name.  If you’re not reading it (and you really should be), Nathaniel Dusk films are seen from time to time running in the background of some of the scenes.  Kinda reminiscent of how those “Tales of the Black Freighter” bits lent some “flavor” to the original Watchmen series.

From Doomsday Clock #2 (February, 2018)
(w) Geoff Johns / (a) Gary Frank

It’s a super neat touch… and, also… for an “everything matters” nut like myself, very much appreciated!

I’m assuming if you’re following (or even just popping in on) a blog like mine, you’re already aware that Nathaniel Dusk was the star of a couple of miniseries back in the long ago.  If not, get ready to meet him!

We open on January 31, 1934 with Nathaniel Dusk going for a midday walk.  As he makes his over way to chat up a neighborhood vendor named Oscar, we can see that he is being watched by a couple of nogoodniks.  They watch while Nate and Oscar talk about the latter’s Polio-afflicted son.

After chatting and picking up some snaps from the photo lab, Nathaniel heads back to his office to meet with a client… a Mrs. Grant Morrison (heyyy), who has hired our man to check up on her husband and see if he’s been cheating on her.  

Annnnnd, turns out… he is!

Mrs. Morrison is pretty ticked, as you might imagine.  Just ten a young lady named Joyce Gulino enters the office.  She tries cheering up the jilted Midwestern Morrison… which doesn’t go all that well.  The client chucks some cash at our man Nate before storming out.

At this point, it’s made pretty clear that Ms. Gulino is Nate’s love interest.  She throws herself into his lap, and kinda ruffles his feathers about being a Private Investigator instead of remaining on the police department.  He spins a tale of corruption, abuse of power, and general unpleasantness which led to him leaving the force.

Nate changes into his casual clothes, and the couple head out for an evening on the town.  They run into a Wolf of Wall Street turned shoe-shine man named Freddie Bickenhacker, and chat about his shifting of fortunes following the big crash.  Those creeps from earlier are still keeping an eye on Dusk.

One of the baddies even gets out of the car to pursue Nate and Joyce on foot.  He winds up getting tripped up by a dog on a leash before slamming into another pedestrian.  At this point, Nate and Joyce run into an acquaintance of her’s named Arthur Squire.  The resulting chat is brief… and awkward.

We rejoin Nate and Joyce at a restaurant, and they’re talking about contraception as a precursor to infidelity (or something).  We then learn a bit more about Joyce… her past isn’t something she really discusses.  We find out that her parents and husband have passed away, and she lives with her two young children.

Just then, Nate catches a glimpse of that same hearty-looking fella who has been following him around all day.  He heads over to find out why the goof’s been keeping an eye on him… and in a neat little touch, the baddie is reading an upside-down menu.  Not sure if that’s a sign that he can’t read… or just a really bad attempt at looking conspicuous.  Either way, I thought it was pretty neat.

Nate “questions” the man… which, is to say… gets in his face and throws a drink at him.  This causes the goof to lunge, and after a brief skirmish, throws Nate out the front window of the joint.  The baddie takes this opportunity to escape into a waiting car.

After the police show up to take a report, we follow Nate and Joyce back to her place.  It’s here that we meet her children… and learn that the voices of Amos and Andy on the radio are actually white guys.  Nice “flavor” of the times, I suppose.

After the kids head to bed, Nate and Joyce spend a little “quality time”.  Rather than stay over, and risk making the children uncomfortable, Nate decides to head back to his office.

… only to find those voyeuristic nogoodniks waiting for him!

They talk a little King Kong, and take Nate to a tall building (which might be the Empire State… it’s definitely near it).  From there, they toss our man, and that’s where we leave him!

Quite enjoyed this one.  It was a different sort of animal for me.  I’d hate to use words like “Noir”, because… honestly, I’m not entirely sure what it even means!  I’d guess this is noir, but I’ve put my foot in my mouth before.

For my first read through, I was a bit confused with the way we were (or weren’t) getting all the information I felt we might need… but, considering this is a finite story, I suppose it makes sense to leave things somewhat nebulous… at least during the opening chapter.

I appreciated all of the Depression-era “flavor” included here.  Discussions of contraception facilitating infidelity, a “Wolf of Wall Street” reduced to shining shoes, Polio being a thing pre-Jonas Salk, radio shows being a primary form of entertainment… all really cool to see.

Nate seems like a likable sort of fella… with a strong moral compass.  His integrity led to his leaving a corrupt police force, and going out on his own.

We still know little about Joyce… and I’m not entirely convinced that she’s trustworthy at this point.  I mean, this is (I think) noir… and femme fatales were yet another flavor of the day.  I almost feel like we’re being lured into a false sense of security with her… though, I’ve never read this all the way through, so I can’t be sure.

I’m torn on the art here.  While I like it, it’s almost a bit too “loose” insofar as it being sequential art.  There were a few pages I had to look over more than once… though, I’m always open to the possibility that that might be due to my own density than any flaws in the artwork.

Overall… a different, but fun kind of comic book.  If you have any interest in pot-boiler detective stories… or if you just wanna know a little about the fella who’s being name-dropped in Doomsday Clock, you’ll probably want to give this a look.

(Not the) Letters Page:

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