Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A New Discovery, a Pulp Hero: Night Raven!

Not too long ago, I ran into a reference for this character in connection with PROJECT SUPERPOWERS spearheaded by Alex Ross, a project dealing with characters in the Public Domain, which means the characters' copyrights had lapsed over time (many from the 1940s) and allowed any creator to pick them up and use them as they see fit, based on the original incarnations.

Night Raven is included as a cameo, probably just as a homage. Still, I was intrigued.

Recently I ran into the above trade paperback of a Night Raven adventure, published in the mid-1990s. Apparently Night Raven had been around for a while, created for the "Marvel UK" line at the end of the 1970s.

Artist David Lloyd, most well-known in this here country for V FOR VENDETTA alongside Alan Moore, and John Bolton drew many of the back-up type stories of Night Raven, and Alan Moore apparently wrote some text pieces using the character.

Basically, Night Raven is a pure Pulp archetype, sprung from the Shadow and the Spider, with twin revolvers and a full dehumanizing face mask. In his spare time, he enjoys marking his kills with a raven brand as a warning to other criminals and evil-doers.

So essentially Night Raven was created just for me. When I stumbled across a Night Raven "graphic novel" I snatched it up.

Written by Jamie Delano (one of those Brit cats who seemed to take over where "Bigger Names" left off; he's worked on a bunch of stuff I hadn't read, but his name "seemed familiar" as the case is with writers of that time period not named Alan Moore or Warren Ellis or Grant Morrison, ect,) "House of Cards" shows a mysterious, shadowed janitor obsessed with a local moll/torch-singer. The janitor is the Night Raven, and he's busy trying to break the local mob. He's also a little bit off. His interior monologues come from the Travis Bickle school of crusader, the one who is going to hurt you to save you, whether you like it or not.

NIGHT RAVEN: HOUSE OF CARDS oozes a nasty Pulp/Noir ambiance. Night Raven is an unrepentant executioner who believes he can alter the doomed course of the gutter trash struggling all around him. He performs many of the usual obsessed hero functions, including annihilating anyone who gets in his way and marking them with his raven brand.

The surprising aspect of this book is how Delano and Lloyd manage to take a shadowed, creepy avatar of justice speaking in first person and still create concern for him. Night Raven is compelling, he must be followed. More than that, you feel sorry for him when the eventual whirlpool of hell destroys his innermost desires and leaves only the stench of blood and ruined lives over which he continues to seek meaning. In a way, it's almost like Night Raven is trying to find a face to wear, and among the denizens of the dark streets he might find it. But in the end, he's left still without an identity, only a purpose.

I loved this work, and I hope to find more soon as I can. HOUSE OF CARDS is not to be missed for a nice literary interpretation of the more vicious justice-committers in retro Pulp.
Images taken from some of the basic online reference pages, including this work to the left which is by the great Alan Davis.

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