At one point it seemed vampires were everywhere – they had the seat that zombies had once occupied and were intent on being a part of every form of media. Now that the “Twilight madness” as I liked to call it, has calmed down, zombies have returned to being the supernatural creature of choice. Noctua fills this void of vampires, by producing its own take on the monster, mixing in elements of racism, mob drama, and a little bit of Batman to create something unique – if not a bit rough around the edges.
Noctua is set in 2051. Vampires (known in this universe as trans-humans) and humans co-exist tentatively, with strong xenophobia extending from both sides. After an owl-like vigilante known as Noctua raids an illegal human blood trafficking ring, killing a mob boss’ son in the process. He finds a young girl and takes her in, and as news of Lucinius death reaches not only the leader of the mob, Alucard Constans, it also reaches a couple of police detectives as well, who take it upon themselves to find out what went wrong.
If that synopsis seemed like it had a bit much going on, it’s because the first issue kinda does as well. Henderson introduces many different plot-lines without letting the reader having time to grasp the previous one, as the story bounces from character to character without slowing down. I can’t help feeling that this dialogue heavy issue would have been better spread out over three, letting the reader take in bits and pieces, and giving more time to flesh out the character of Noctua, before throwing in the rest of the world.
Where Henderson does succeed is in his portrayal of vampires. Less monsters of the night, and more like the X-Men, Henderson manages to make this new race sympathetic. They are just real people, some are good and some are evil. At the end of the issue, I’m not entirely sure whether I should be rooting for Noctua, who initially comes across as a more violent Batman, only to seem more like a killer with a personal vendetta against a race, rather than someone who seeks justice. It’s a nice twist on the vampire fiction, and it seems to set up future moral conflicts for the characters of this world.
On the subject of Baez art, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. His character work is fantastic, with the vampires looking suitably feral and savage, and thanks to Eagle Gosselin’s dark colour palate it sets a depressing and violent tone. But Baez environments at times lack any detail at all, never quite giving the comic a sense of place. I could never tell where exactly the action was taking place, and often the background was just a swirl of colours, leaving me to guess where the characters were, or if they were even inhabiting a physical space at all.
Noctua comes out of the gate swinging, introducing many different plot points that can leave it feeling cluttered, but thanks to it’s interesting premise and themes, still manages to keep me interested. If this book manages to slow down and focus on only a few plot-lines, this could definitely be one to watch this year.