BONUS BOOK – Night Force (July, 1982)
“The Night Force”
Writer – Marv Wolfman
Pencils – Gene Colan
Inks – Bob Smith
Letters – John Costanza
Colors – Michele Wolfman
Editor – Ross Andru
Another day, another Insert Prevue from the pages of New Teen Titans… I think, counting Masters of the Universe, this makes three… with more to come! One thing’s different here though, in that not only does this appear in an issue of New Teen Titans… it’s also written by the very same fella who gave us New Teen Titans!
For today we’re taking a look at Marv Wolfman reuniting with his Tomb of Dracula partner Gene Colan to create a sorta-kinda horror title in Night Force!
Now, it’s been ages since I’ve read any actual Night Force comics… and my most recent exposure to the concept was, err, not the best. It was the 2018-2019 Raven: Daughter of Darkness maxi-series that attempted to reimagine the Night Force as a team of teen-age mystics and whatnot… and it was even worse than it sounds. With a teen-age cast came Marv Wolfman’s need to… err, engage in “teenspeak”… Baron Winters even makes a “swipe left” reference. It was cringy as hell. Even Winters’ Cat Merlin utters out some unironic and sassy “Grrrrrrll“s. I reviewed every issue of the thing for the folks over at Weird Science DC Comics if you’re interested in going along for that ride.
I covered the first issue of Night Force here at the blog nearly four years ago… and I’m pretty sure I didn’t even realize at the time that a “Prevue” proceeded it. To me, that’s a good thing. I don’t think people who buy a #1 issue should be punished because they didn’t do their due-diligence in buying some other title altogether to be introduced to the concept. As we will soon find out, this Insert Preview does add to the lore, but it is by no means required to understand the events of the first issue.
Let’s get to it…
We open “somewhen” where Baron Winters is taking in a jousting tournament hosted by a Lord Bedford in his honor. Apparently, Winters was vital in saving the Lord’s people. He also bought some at-the-time worthless London real estate… knowing full-well that it would appreciate in some six hundred years. After the event, Winters walks through a door… and winds up back at his palatial mansion, where his jolly mood is interrupted by the ringing of a phone. On the other end, a man named Jack Gold… with whom the Baron has an interview the following day. Worth noting, Winters already knew it would be Gold on the line.
Now, just who is this Jack Gold? Well, we soon learn he is a tabloid news reporter who somehow talked his way into getting a look at some Top Secret Pentagon files on “Psychic Phenomena”. Jack’s… well, kind of a jerk to the Major showing him around… and isn’t all that keen on being given access to only a single file.
As luck would have it, the Major gets called away. Despite not liking or trusting Jack… he, get this, leaves him alone in the file room! Unsurprisingly, Jack takes this opportunity to dig a bit deeper in the drawers… and happens across a file labeled PROJECT SATAN, written by a Georgetown Professor named Donovan Caine.
Major Whatshisface pops back in, and catches Gold in the act. He has his assistant escort the reporter out… and also tells her to make sure he never returns. She makes a phone call… to a shadowy individual.
She then catches up with Jack to apologize for the Major’s brusqueness and offer to take him out for a cup of coffee so they can talk. He takes her up on the offer, but doesn’t care to stick around all that long. After the cuppa, Jack heads into the garage to procure his rental car… only to find that a security guard appeared to be paying special attention to it. Writing it off as paranoia, Jack hops in and takes off.
Only… he doesn’t get very far. The ol’ hooptie is rattling like mad and spewing exhaust like it’s going out of style. He pulls into a gas station and asks the Attendant to take a look at it while he makes a phone call to his ex-wife. Well, the Attendant shifts the gears a few times, and… boom.
Back at Wintersgate, the Baron is talking to his sassy cat about his latest recruits… not only is Jack vital to his plans, but that very same Donovan Caine also factors in! Speaking of Professor Don, he’s currently guiding a class through a… Satanic Baptism? Okey doke. His students strip off their clothes and join hands while he babbles about somethin’ or ‘nother. Before long, the entire place is bathed in flame.
The students are, well more than a bit freaked out, and nearly trample one another to get out. Caine manages to calm them all down by suggesting that this was all a good sign… a sign that they’re “narrowing in on their target”, whatever that means. During a subsequent five-minute break, one of the students heads into the hallway to make a phone call… to, perhaps that same shadowy individual.
We jump back to the Baron as he’s informing sassy cat about the final (at this point) recruit… a young woman named Vanessa Van Helsing. A woman tortured by visions and whatnot, currently being held at in one of Potomac Psychiatric Hospital’s finest padded rooms.
Van Helsing starts throwing a fit, prompting some orderlies to bust in and try to calm her down She’s thrashing all about as a Dr. Rabin enters the scene, resigned to the fact that there’s only ever been one treatment for this behavior… and it involves a visit to Wintersgate.
And so, that’s exactly where they go. Rabin and Winters exchange some unkind words, with the former insisting that the latter only provides a “placebo cure”… which, c’mon, any old port in a storm, right? If it works, it works. Before we know it, Winters has Vanessa back to “normal” so she can be taken back to the Hospital. He promises that he will be able to help her in a more permanent way once she turns 21.
We wrap up with the Baron retiring for the evening, realizing that tomorrow is going to be quite a busy day indeed.
I’m not sure what it was, but I came into this completely prepared to crap all over it. If I were to guess, it’s probably residual disappointment stemming from that Raven: Daughter of Darkness garbage-fire. I was half expecting the Baron to bust out with a “Talk to the Hand” or “Cash me outside” or something here. He (and his cat) was just so damn sassy in that cringy maxi-series!
What we get here, however, is… really good stuff! I’m not even a fella who considers himself a fan of horror comics, and I found myself highly entertained and intrigued by this short offering. On that subject, has anyone reading this ever read a horror comic that actually scared them? I know I haven’t… but, I’d love to if anyone has any recommendations!
Baron Winters comes across here as quite the enigma. We can’t tell at first blush whether or not we ought to be rooting for him. In fact, if not for the cover-copy (which reads: “To Save Mankind…“) we might assume we’re actually reading about a super-villain! I like just how much of the Night Force “lore” is included right off the bat. Things like Wintersgate Mansion being something of a dimensional hub is established in the very first page. Not only is that highly interesting, it also subverts our expectations going forward. I mean, the “cover” and opening scene take place in Medieval England… then suddenly, in passing through an ordinary door, we’re in current day! It really illustrates the amount of possibilities that can be explored in this series… and it’s a lot of fun.
We’re not-quite introduced to the anti-Winters (if that’s in fact who the shadowy fella getting the phone calls winds up being, I can’t for the life of me remember who that is… it might just be the Baron himself playing both sides!). I dig the level of urgency that threat brought to the story… and the confirmation that there is actually something sinister going on that needs to be uncovered and dealt with.
Really, I just don’t have enough good things to say about this one. From story, to characters, to… good lord, the art… this was a really well put together piece… and to think, we got it for free between the pages of another awesome story appearing in New Teen Titans #21 (July, 1982). It was a good time to be a fan of DC Comics.
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