Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Story: Tim Seeley
Art: Jim Terry, Sean Dove
Release Date: 24th December, 2014
It’s an unfortunate fact that no matter how diligently I try to keep up to date with all the great comics being released on a weekly basis, every so often an absolute belter will slip through the cracks. Thankfully, my review team is pretty good at keeping me abreast of any comics they consider to be ‘can’t miss’ titles, with the result being that this week – courtesy of Sam – I have finally been clued in to the utterly sublime world of Dark Horse’s Sundowners.
After devouring the entire five issue run so far in a single sitting, I can’t help but feel my head swirling as I try to soak in the intriguing world that Tim Seeley has created. The most engaging aspect of Sundowners is undoubtedly its ambiguity; throughout the series, Seeley continually messes with our heads, making us repeatedly question whether what we’re seeing is actually real or just a manifestation of our titular Sundowners’ shared psychosis. The title characters are all brilliantly realised; flawed, damaged individuals struggling to reconcile the strange things they’re seeing. Are they really superheroes, or just plain mentally unstable? It’s an impressive feat of writing that, five issues in, we still don’t really know for sure.
To be honest though, at this stage, it doesn’t really matter all that much. The characters are all utterly compelling in their own way, each with their own unique problems and motivations, and watching their bonds form and break as their neurosis’ ebb and flow is truly mesmerising stuff. It’s perhaps both a compliment and a criticism to say that the actual ‘Jubilant’ conspiracy is very much secondary at this point to the relationships between the Sundowners themselves. Seeley has done a fantastic job of helping us becoming fully invested in these characters, making us care about what happens to them; revelling in their victories and commiserating in their failures.
Jim Terry’s (presumably) intentionally ‘dated’ artistic style wraps the story up in an utterly distinctive package. Visually, this book could easily have been plucked off the shelves of any 80’s comic shop, with its retro stylings and Sean Dove’s slightly washed-out colours, and while this approach does give the series an impressive ‘Watchmen’-esque aesthetic, it’s also probably its weakest aspect, with the occasional wonky facial expression making certain characters’ emotions difficult to interpret at times.
This latest issue is based around Swedish Covenant Hospital, the site of our heroes’ unofficial “reunion”, as ‘Concerned Citizen’ and ‘Arcanika’ bring in what’s left of the latter’s ex-boyfriend for urgent medical attention at the same time as Doctor Shrejic appears with the recently overdosed ‘Crowlita’. I’m not going to delve too deeply into any of the events which unfold, for fear of spoiling their impact, but suffice to say that Shrejic – or “Doctor Shreds” – continues to be perhaps my favourite character of the series; a deeply troubled man in his own right who feels compelled to get involved, even against his better judgment – and the final page of this issue serves as a perfect crystallisation of just what makes his character so compelling. Fantastic writing from Seeley, and a great visual flourish from Terry.
If you haven’t been following Sundowners to this point, then I strongly urge you to remedy that as quickly as possible. This is a truly inspired take on the somewhat tired superhero genre, featuring some of the most intriguing characters I’ve read in quite some time. Seeley and Terry have combined to create something truly special here; a multi-layered look at the inherent insanity and identity issues that come hand in hand with being a quote-unquote “hero”, and an utterly compelling story to boot.