30 Days of Night #1
By Steve Niles, writer
Piotr Kowalski, artist
Brad Simpson, colorist
Tom B. Long, letterer
Reviewed by Tom Zimm
30 Days of Night is a horror story wrapped in a mystery. It takes place in Barrow, Alaska. Not surprisingly, temperatures are arctic-cold, and the sun doesn’t rise between November and January. The first sign of mystery occurs in the story’s opening panels when we are introduced to a stranger who is looking for work. Put that thought on hold because he shows up again at the end of the issue. The art helps set the tone of the book as the colors are blue and overcast with a nice use of lighting during outdoor scenes.
The middle of the story transitions through three minor story arcs, which intersect at the end. First, we meet Stella and Eben who are partners both romantically and for the sheriff’s department. Stella and Eben are sent on separate minor story arcs after their introduction. Eben is sent to investigate a domestic dispute between partners, Rich and Martha. Stella responds to an inquiry by a local resident, Walt.
Probably my favorite thing artistically occurs in the next scene as we are introduced to Walt. He is riding a snowmobile, alone, making his way through the middle of subtle ravine with evergreens on either side. It’s dark, the area is lit up by the moon off the bright white snow. The rider raises a rifle but resists shooting a polar bear with her cub. However, the scene pans to show a stranger walking from the woods, which follows by the rider yelling out. The stranger disappears. Shivers, both due to the felt cold and the eerie stranger lurking in the woods.
Eben arrives and confronts Rich for alleged domestic violence and smelling like alcohol. Rich slams the door in Eben’s face and flees out the back door. Eben pursues.e loses Rich momentarily and he calls Stella and asks if she’s seen Rich. She has not. The pursuit continues during which Eben runs into, literally, the stranger from the first sequence.
Transition back to Stella who is with Walt, the hunter from earlier who spotted a stranger in the woods. Stella asks Walt to show her what he’s found. Walt shows her a campsite. He tells her that there’s more. Walt takes Stella deeper into the woods where he stops and says, “I’m sorry Stella.” Laying in the snow is Eben!
This story piqued my interest due to the way it sets up several relationships while introducing a mystery at the end. The established romantic relationship between Stella and Eben heightens the felt importance when we see Eben in the snow at the end. Rich’s alcohol consumption while being violent paints a vivid picture and provokes a desire for justice to be served when Eben investigates. Walt spotting a stranger in the woods sent chills down, and up, my spine. Finally, the story ends on a cliffhanger that is hard to track. How did Eben end up in the woods? How did Walt know where to lead Stella? Wasn’t Eben on the phone with Stella while she was with Walt earlier? There is much more of the story to be told which has me interested.