Monday, October 4, 2010

Graphic Novel Review: Nightschool volume 1

Title: Nightschool: The Weirn Books
Volume: 1
Series Length: 4+
Creator: Svetlana Chmakova
Genre: Teen, Supernatural, Horror 
English Publisher: Yen Press

Series Synopsis: Schools may lock up for the night, but class is in session for an entirely different set of students. In the Nightschool, vampires, werewolves, and weirns (a particular breed of witches) learn the fundamentals of everything from calculus to spell casting. Alex is a young weirn whose education has always been handled through homeschooling, but circumstances seem to be drawing her closer to the Nightschool. Will Alex manage to weather the dark forces gathering?

Volume Synopsis:  Studying at home because she's afraid of what her powers can do, Alex goes out late one night to the graveyard while her sister is working.  When Alex's older sister Sarah disappears, Alex decides to investigate what has gone on.

Review:  Vampires and Werewolves and witches oh my!  Anyone who reads OEL (Original English Language, in other words its original language is English) knows Chmakova's name.  She's the creative force behind TokyoPop's Dramacon series.  She also has an online comic called Night Silver and another one called Chasing Rainbow.  Nightschool was originally part of Yen Press' mangathology 'Yen+' and has since moved to the online format that Yen Press has adopted for the magazine.

Originally I read this as it was serialized monthly, so its a real treat to be able to read the chapters straight through.  Yen Press also included the color pages from chapter 2, which is a nice addition.

From a narrative standpoint the story ends at an awkward moment.  Having just realized something is up with her sister's disappearance Alex goes to investigate the Night School where Sarah worked.  After running into the Hunters who are now looking for her because she knocked out three of their comrades.  Three separate plot threads are all running around each other, converge very briefly and than race away all over again.  I wanted the storyline to focus on Alex's search for more than a couple pages at a time.

Introductions to each character is brief and fast, with a lot of what they are (or what they're doing) filled in by their actions.  I didn't feel a connection to any of them except for Alex, as she felt the most developed, though I did feel bad for the poor principle Madame Chen.  She has deal with all the whacko Night School teachers, most of whom seem to be itching to get hurt.

Chmakova's special blend of serious, comedy and horror abound in this series.  Sometimes the humor seems kind of...oddly juxtaposed from one scene to the next, but anyone who is familiar with manga will recognize the style.  And the best part?  I've always been a fan of Chmakova's artwork--its kind of shoujo, but kind of not really and beautifully detailed--and with this book she pulls out all the stops.  The artwork is a lot crisper and cleaner than in her earlier works, but also exhibits her range of talent quite well.

For anyone who likes say Buffy the Vampire Slayer or is looking for a supernatural book with mystery and action involved, I recommend giving this series a try!