Too Many Long Boxes!

End of Summer
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During the mid 1980's (~ 1983 to 1987), DC published two series of oversized graphic novels. One consisted of adaptations of prose science fiction stories, and the other contained original material. Both series came out sporadically, with about seven issues of each being published before cancellation came knocking.

The sci-fi line had adaptations of works by notable authors such as Ray Bradbury ("Frost and Fire"), Harlan Ellison ("Demon With a Glass Hand"), and Larry Niven ("The Magic Goes Away"). The regular line consisted of decent, but forgettable, issues such as "Space Clusters," "The Medusa Chain," and the bizarre "Metalzoic." The most memorable issue of either series was the New Gods "Hunger Dogs" graphic novel by Jack Kirby.

And that brings us to "Nightwings" by Robert Silverberg, the second title published in the sci-fi line. Originally written in prose format in 1968, it won a Hugo Award, which is an annual award given to the best sci-fi short story. Couple that fact with editor Julius Schwartz's connections to the pulps and early sci-fi community (Schwartz was once the agent for Ray Bradbury and other authors), and you can see why DC published this.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure they should have bothered.

Set in some quasi-apocalyptic future version of Earth, the story revolves around three traveling companions' journey to "Roum" (Rome) and their experiences upon arriving in the city. The three lead characters are; Avluela, a female "flier" whose wings only work at night, when the solar wind isn't as strong (hence the title "Nightwings"); Gormon, a green skinned reptilian changeling who is secretly the commander of an alien invasion fleet; and the Watcher, a nameless man from whose point of view the story is told.

In this future, society has grouped itself into guilds similar to those that existed during our Middle Ages. Dominators (royalty), masters (aristocrats), defenders (soldiers), rememberers (historians), and watchers (religious astronomers) are just a few of the guilds. Just as with the odd names of the guilds, most other locations and items have unusual names. The continents, for example, are called Eyrop, Afreek, Ais, and Stralya (Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia), and no mention is made of the two Americas. This cutesy touch will either endlessly annoy you or add to the mystique of the strange future setting.

As for the plot of the story, if you read the blurb on the back cover, you don't really need to bother. It reads "Set in a post apocalyptic Rome untold eons in the far future, this is a story of three survivors: a world weary Watcher, a fearsome scaly skinned Changeling, and a beautifully delicately winged Flier. We meet these three on the eve of a terrible invasion….an invasion one of them foretold….and on eof them secretly led."

You need only one guess to figure out that Gormon betrays Earth, the Watcher predicts the invasion, and Avluela is the stereotypical love interest. Gormon is ugly, but truly loves her. The Watcher lusts for her because, as a celibate, he can never have her. The Prince of Roum can have her simply because he's royalty and because of the predicament the three travelers find themselves in. It's the stereotypical love triangle (or love quadrilateral, in this case). Throw in an alien invasion, and you're set.

Despite the somewhat cliche plot, the story works well because of Silverberg's excellent characterization of the three main characters. Even minor characters, such as the Prince, are well developed and have excellent dialogue. The detailed personalities, quirks, and faults of the characters make them very realistic. Gormon, for example, has a deeper/better developed personality than some real life people. (Al Gore comes to mind….)

Similarly to characterization, the art work is the saving grace of the story. Gene Colan's detailed, crime noir-ish line work is complemented very nicely by Neal McPheeters' painting work. McPheeters' could have easily overpowered the fine details of the underlying art, but he doesn't. If you liked Colan's art in both "Nathaniel Dusk" miniseries, you'll like "Nightwings" too.

So what's the bottom line? Well, the art is superb. Having not read the original story, though, I'm not sure if it loses something in transition to comics format or if the story's simply showing its age. Let's face it, in an era of Star Trek, Babylon 5, and other flashy TV and sci-fi book series, a 30 year old story might seem commonplace and trite to modern readers. That might not stop you from reading a classic story like this, which does have some nice parts, but it should make you pause before shelling out your money.


Written by Robery Silverberg
Adapted & Scripted by Cary Bates
Pencils by Gene Colan
Painted by Neal McPheeters
Review by David R. Black

My vote: 5 out of 10

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David R. Black is's magazine editor and chief archivist. A big fan of "The Warlord," he has a cat named Shakira and is looking for a girlfriend named Tara....

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