Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Comics Review: "Kolchak: The Night Stalker – 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel" is a Great Tribute, Great Read


STORY: David Avallone; Jonathan Maberry; Peter David; R.C. Matheson; Kim Newman; Tim Waggoner; Steve Niles; Rodney Barnes; Gabriel Hardman; James Aquilone; Nancy A. Collins; James Chambers
ART: Julius Ohta; Marco Finnegan; J.K. Woodward; Paul McCaffrey; Clara Meath; Szymon Kudranski; Jonathan Marks Barravecchia; Gabriel Hardman; Colton Worley; Warwick Caldwell-Johnson;
COLORS: Zac Atkinson; Szymon Kudranski; Colton Worley; Warwick Caldwell-Johnson;
LETTERS: Tom Napolitano; Tom Napolitano with DC Hopkins
EDITOR: James Aquilone
COVER: Colton Worley
MISC. ART: Jerry Ordway with Zac Atkinson; J.K. Woodward; Dan Brereton
ISBN: 978-1-946346-14-8; paperback (October 21, 2022)
188pp, Color, $24.99 U.S.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker – 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel is a 188-page comic book anthology that celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the former ABC television series, “Kolchak: The Night Stalker.”  This graphic novel is edited by James Aquilone and published by Moonstone Books.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker” was a television series that blended horror, fantasy, and science fiction.  It aired on ABC during the 1974–1975 season for a total of 20 episodes.  The series was preceded by two ABC television movies, The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973).

The TV series and two movies followed wire service reporter named Carl Kolchak, who was played by the late actor Darren McGavin (1922-2006).  Kolchak worked for the Chicago branch of the Independent News Service (INS), a small news wire service.  He often investigated mysterious crimes and events and they were usually caused by forces, creatures, monsters, entities, etc. that were of supernatural, science fiction, and/or fantastic origins.  Carl Kolchak was created by the late writer, Jeff Rice (1944-2015).

2022 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the debut of “The Night Stalker” TV movie (specifically January 18, 1972).  To commemorate that anniversary, editor and publisher, James Aquilone, launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for an anthology graphic novel telling all-new comics stories that would span Carl Kolchak's entire career as a reporter of the supernatural and as TV’s greatest monster-hunting reporter.

The result was a hugely successful campaign and the eventual release of Kolchak: The Night Stalker – 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel.  This special 188-page graphic novel is comprised of 12 all-new stories that chronicle the adventures of the intrepid Carl Kolchak from the 1930s to the early 2000s.

The stories are written by a stellar line-up of novelists, television writers, and comic book scribes.  The list includes David Avallone, Rodney Barnes, James Chambers, Nancy A. Collins, Peter David, Jonathan Maberry, and Steve Niles, to name a few.  The artists include Jonathan Marks Barravecchia, Szymon Kudranski, Paul McCaffrey, Julius Ohta, J.K. Woodard, and Colton Worley, to name a few.

THE LOWDOWN:  There is more than one edition of Kolchak: The Night Stalker – 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel, including one that will contain a series of prose stories featuring Carl Kolchak.  My review will be of the 188-page “Cover A” paperback edition that contains the 12 stories and a short illustration gallery of variant cover art.

First, allow me to gush, dear readers.  If Kolchak: The Night Stalker – 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel is not the best horror comics anthology of the 21st century that I have read, it is definitely in the top three.  I can't think of a better one that I've encountered over the last twenty-plus years.

It is bracketed by a fine opening story and a pitch-perfect closing story.  The opening tale, writer David Avallone and artist Julius Ohta's “The Funny Place,” introduces a young Carl Kolchak who is coming into his own.  Avallone does not make the mistake of doing what the film, Solo: A Star Wars Story,” did and show us the origins of every single habit for which television viewers and fans would come to know Kolchak.  I'd like to see Avallone and Ohta produce a YA graphic novel expansion of their take on young Carl Kolchak.  I know it likely won't happen, but a fanboy can dream...

The closing story, writer James Chambers and artist Paul McCaffrey's “The Last Byline,” is masterstroke as a concluding story in an anthology.  It recalls Kolchak's debut, The Night Stalker; is a summation of his work and motivation; and is a fitting end … with his boots on.

In between, the writers and artists introduce new spins on the adventures of Carl Kolchak, such as Nancy A. Collins' and Warwick Caldwell-Johnson's “The Sin Feeder” and Jonathan Maberry and Marco Finnegan's “The White Lady.”  Writer Rodney Barnes and artist Jonathan Marks Barravecchia summon the spirit of original “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” episode, “The Zombie,” with the superb “Voodoo Child.”  It is a timely rumination on the pervasive poverty of black and brown inner city neighborhoods and also police violence, with a seeding of George A. Romero's “Dead” films.

I actually cannot pick a personal favorite story from Kolchak: The Night Stalker – 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel because they are all so damn good.  “The Nest” by Tim Waggoner and Clara Meath may be the sweetest.  I unequivocally endorse Kolchak: The Night Stalker – 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel.  I think the version that I am reviewing costs $32 to purchase from James Aquilone's Monstrous Books website.  I am sure, dear readers, that some of you have spent much more on reading material that is not nearly as good as this book.

I READS YOU RECOMMENDS:  Fans of Carl Kolchak and of “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” will very much want Kolchak: The Night Stalker – 50th Anniversary Graphic Novel.

[This volume includes introductions by R.C. Matheson and James Rice.]


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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