Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Jim Terry
Release Date: 26th August, 2015
While the first arc of Dark Horse’s Sundowners received no shortage of critical acclaim, for some inexplicable reason the sales figures didn’t reflect the overwhelmingly positive online feedback. However, with cancellation looming, Dark Horse took the classy decision to make the second arc (along with the second volume of Donny Cates’ Ghost Fleet and the remainder of Fred Van Lente’s Resurrectionists) available via their Digital Exclusive platform, with a printed trade being published at the end of the run. What this meant is that fans of the series – of which I am most definitely one – were given the chance to see the story reach its logical conclusion, rather than facing an abrupt and frustrating finale.
This volume collects the second (and you would assume final) arc of the series as our eponymous heroes shift location to Detroit in the wake of the shocking events of the first volume. In doing so however, they find themselves stumbling headlong into the Motor City’s own “supervillain” community, prompting their innate sense of duty to come to the fore once again as they attempt to save the day.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Sundowners has always been its ambiguity; the constant second-guessing about whether what we’re seeing on the page is actually real, or just a physical representation of the team’s shared delusion. While the first arc pretty much settled that once and for all, writer Tim Seeley still has an absolute blast with this dynamic, rapidly drawing us into the sick and twisted world of Mr Christmas and his deranged ‘helpers’.
The Sundowners themselves are brilliantly realised; each deeply troubled in their own way, but each possessing an unwavering belief (or perhaps delusion) that their actions are truly heroic. From former dominatrix and junkie Crowlita, who believes she’s an extra-terrestrial lycan warrior sent to earth to protect it to Concerned Citizen, a duty-bound street-level hero whose attempts to clean up the world around him often get more than little out of hand, each of these characters easily have enough depth and intriguing traits to support their own solo series. However, as a wise man pointed out on the cover blurb, “it’s their interactions that really make the series come together“, and that’s doubly true in this second volume as the team and their interpersonal relationships are given even more time to develop.
One of the things that really sets Sundowners apart from other horror comics (or indeed superhero comics) on the shelves today – apart from the utterly inspired premise – is the strikingly retro artwork of Jim Terry. Adopting an intentionally old-school approach, he – and the wonderfully washed-out colour work of Sean Dove – makes this comic look like a glorious throwback to the horror comics of the late 60’s and early 70’s; Dracula, Swamp Thing et al. This approach adds further impact to the high-concept nature of the series, with this familiar aesthetic playing host to a decidedly un-traditional story.
While I’m definitely sad to see the series come to an end, Seeley does a terrific job of wrapping things up nicely, leaving us with a poignant finale and putting the future of these characters in the hands of our own hopeful imaginations. In a world where so many new comics can be viewed as pale, soulless imitations of other titles, it’s incredibly disappointing that this truly original idea didn’t catch on like it should have, but I’m genuinely thankful that Dark Horse allowed us a chance to read these final five issues. Intelligent, thought provoking superhero horror with some of the most intriguing characters I’ve read in a long, long time, Sundowners has easily cemented its place in my list of all-time favourite comics, and I can only hope that as many people pick up this trade (and the previous one, obviously) as possible. You owe it to yourselves not to miss out on this one.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]