Thursday, October 15, 2009

Retro-View: Nocturnals Carnival of Beasts

I was aware of Dan Brereton's Nocturnals series for quite some time, but strangely never really got around to picking up any of the various mini-series, one-shots or collected editions. Brereton was a guest at this year's Dragoncon, and while it wasn't the first time that I had gotten a chance to see him in person, I finally took the plunge and bought both the Black Planet trade edition and the Nocturnals: Carnival of Beasts convention special (both signed, of course). Today's retro-view covers Carnival of Beasts which boasts three tales written by Brereton, but only the first tale features his lushly painted signature art style, the other stories are illustrated by guest artists.

Dan Brereton's 'Beasts' finds Doc Horror suffering the early pangs of an unidentified illness or condition which has prompted him to cart his daughter, Evening (aka Halloween Girl) off to boarding school before he loses control of himself. After the group says bon voyage to regular cast members Starfish and Komodo (who are heading off on a journey of their own), Doc Horror and the silent revenant called the Gunwitch escort Eve through a dark and dreary woodland to drop her off at the Nightshade School. Along the way the ghost girl called Polychrome appears for a quick confab with Horror, and while Eve doesn't catch their exchange, she knows that Poly isn't pleased with Doc's current actions. The Gunwitch uncovers the nearby entrance to a hidden location harboring a group of evil scientists that have been turning runaway children into monstrous kids.

'The Scrimshaw Crown' written by Brereton and illustrated by Viktor Kalvachev in a style that is highly reminiscent of Brereton's, focuses on Starfish who has been asked by Eve to descend into the oceans depths to recover a haunted spear from the belly of a massive sea beast, in order to free two tormented souls that remain attached to the earthly plane by this connection.

Finally, 'Night of the Candy Butchers' (again written by Brereton) and beautifully illustrated by Ruben Martinez has Evening, Polychrome and the Gunwitch running amok through a Halloween-esque carnival taking on some demonic entities and saving a couple of innocent lives.

Brereton has filled this standalone volume with a nice mixture of seasonal atmosphere, peculiar creatures and action-a-plenty. It's just what the doctor ordered for pure reading pleasure at this time of year. I can't help but wonder if all of the Nocturnals stories are this engaging. If you've grown weary of marketing mandated crossover events at the larger publishers, then trust me on this one. Seek out Carnival of Beasts and enjoy scaring yourself silly!

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