Title: City of Others
Writer(s): Steve Niles & Bernie Wrightson.
Illustrator(s): Bernie Wrightson.
Colourist(s): José Villarrubia.
Letterer(s): Michael David Thomas.
Publisher: Dark Horse Books.
Format: Hardcover – Oversized (Tenth Anniversary Edition).
Release Date: July 18th, 2019 (first published March 5th, 2008).
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
We grow up learning that monsters aren’t real. We grow up discovering that sometimes humans can be monsters too. But what if monsters do actually exist, hiding in plain sight, claiming the darkness to themselves? What if you could become one of them on one faithful night? It might not be easy to believe it now but maybe a fictional story can help us all envision such a city, populated with monsters and humans. From the writer who brought us 30 Days of Night and the artist who co-created The Swamp Thing comes a grimly strange world where humans and monsters co-exist and wage secret wars between themselves.
What is City of Others about? Cold-blooded and incapable of human emotions, the assassin for hire Stosh Bludowski is content with his job as he hunts down his targets without a care in the world and lives off his sense of duty. It’s on an unpredictable and unexpected run that he encounters a target that somehow can’t seem to stay dead that he thus finds himself dragged into a mystery that will change his destiny forever. Collecting City of Others issues #1-4, the story presents a killer’s life-threatening choice to remain a monster amongst humans or join the Other in a search for an identity and a purpose far greater than he would have ever given to himself.
The idea behind this graphic novel is pretty neat. It’s essentially an opening scene to a city filled with various monsters while you follow a cold-blooded hitman in his journey to discovering these creatures and their intergenerational turmoils. While the intention to set the table for more stories within this world hasn’t been fulled exploited to this day and will probably never happen with the passing of illustrator Bernie Wrightson in 2017—apart from other stand-alone stories set within this universe (see Dead She Said, The Ghoul or Doc Macabre) but don’t feature Blud’s character—City of Others feels like an incomplete graphic novel with unmet expectations served on a silver platter. That being said, the story in itself is intriguing but gives us a look at an unfortunately unactualized vampire- and zombie-centric narrative that is, however, essentially intriguing due to the artwork.
For this project, illustrator Bernie Wrightson’s special request was to realize these stories in a detailed penciling and bring colourist José Villarrubia to work directly with the pencils afterward. The result is impressive and ends up being the main attraction as the characters and the world are developed into an almost folkloric style. Brimming with action sequences and a curated dose of horror elements that doesn’t tip towards excessiveness, the artwork flows marvelously and opens up a whole world to the reader. Although the colouring does seem unadapted at times, one can only imagine the complicated process of working directly with such a rough penciling style where delimitations are almost transparent. Nevertheless, with how short this graphic novel is, it is almost mandatory to gaze at the art much more than ever throughout this tale.
City of Others is an incomplete yet engrossing world crawling with humanlike monsters as a gun for hire is given a chance at a new life.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!