"The Scrimshaw Crown"
"Night of the Candy Butchers"
Any new work by Dan Brereton is cause for celebration, but when he returns to his creations The Nocturnals, it's time to break out the bubbly. Carnival of Beasts, however, isn't a complete graphic novel. Rather it's an anthology. Brereton's fully painted novella is the meat. The two accompanying tales though are about as far from gristle as you can get.
At first I thought Brereton was a little off in "The Scrimshaw Crown." His faces didn't look quite right. Then I discovered that this was a different talented painter named Victor Kalvachev whose work is shockingly close to that of Brereton. He's not mimicking his maestro. Instead, I imagine that he and Brereton are fans of paperback cover and Bond poster painter Robert McGuinness. They simply approach their idol in a different way.
Brereton's delightful story focuses on the friendship of Starfish and Eve, Doc Horror's "little fruitbat" daughter. The painted proportion of Starfish undulates sensuously through the depths on a mission to make Eve happy, and Kalvachev is equally at home when illustrating Eve's and Starfish's smiling faces. This is especially true during the charming epilogue.
Ruben Martinez and Halloween themed colorist Viet Nguyen sharply contrast Brereton's painted work with a cartoony treatment of Eve, Gunwitch and Polychrome on a trip to the fair. The story swiftly takes you down one road only to pull a convincing switcharoo at the end.
Gunwitch is Eve's zombie baby-sitter, and he's never looked quite so alive as he does in Martinez's art. Polychrome is another of the Nocturnals, a reformed wraith with ghostly white skin. Pay close attention to how Martinez confines Polychrome's reactions to her eyebrows.
Now we come to "The Beasts." Not only does Brereton craft a story that's visually a stunner with utterly jaw-dropping colors. He makes it stand-alone. You can read this story without having previous knowledge of the Nocturnals. For those who are fans of the group, the story continues the underlying continuity of the characterization and the character interactions.
"Beasts" tackles the issue of why Doc Horror, a comparatively normal looking man, is in league with a group of "monsters." What secret does he hide?
The secret takes him into the woods where true monsters lurk. Brereton exhilarates the eyes with freshly designed creatures that still draw upon his organic style. The villainess' extraordinary evil seeps from her very human soul to her visage. It's not horns or fur that makes these things monsters. It's their intentions.
If you're a Nocturnals fan, you cannot pass up these new stories. If you have never read about the Nocturnals, here's a cheap but not cheaply made crash course. If you like what you've read here, pick up the newly issued, full color Nocturnals hardback collection. It is fantastic.
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