The Night Projectionist is a new graphic novel by Robert Heske, published by Studio 407. Pegged by Fangoria as ‘the next 30 Days of Night’, this dark book is, of course, crawling with vampires- and follows two simultaneous stories, one set in 18th-Century Hungary and the other in the present day. Both stories, however, centre on Dragos- the night projectionist. The story stands alone, but leaves the possibility of further developments in future.
The Night Projectionist has one fundamental problem, and it’s a biggie: it’s not very original. In fact, it’s not original at all- it’s a very tired storyline, which adds almost nothing of its own to the vampire mythos. From the outset, the story will contain no surprises for the average vampire fan: in 18th century Hungary, a group of vampires terrorize a small town. In the present day, a showdown between two vampire factions engulfs a cinema, where a Draculathon is being held, on Halloween. ‘What’s new?’ You may well ask. Not a lot.
Diego Yapur’s artwork in this volume is capable, but nothing to write home about. It’s your standard, run-of-the-mill dark comic, but without enough gore or nudity to scare away younger audiences- which doesn’t give Yapur much to play with, I suppose. Whatever the reason, don’t expect anything above and beyond from the artwork here; you won’t get it. The slight exception to this is the covers and inserts, which clearly display the extra time spent on them- but sadly, this alone is not enough to turn around the general mediocrity of the visual experience.
The redeeming features of the comic are few and far between; on occasion little nuances move slightly outside of the pre-defined comics box, which is much needed refreshment. The characters in the present-day storyline are also a breath of fresh air, moving towards the kind of three-dimensional figures that a story like this needs in order to be memorable. They certainly look good in comparison to the depressingly stereotypical 18th century Hungarian characters- a maniacal priest, a family man gone rogue, an endearing child, a mad doctor… need I go on?
To sum up
The plot itself progresses well in the Hungarian storyline, but falters somewhat in the modern storyline. The 18th Century is where most of the action happens in this book, and that makes it strangely unbalanced. It isn’t until right at the end, in a climactic finale, that the modern storyline becomes less tepid and confused, and more interesting.
The key to a good comic is imagination, to my mind. Being shown new things, or old things in a new light, is what graphic novels are all about. There’s nothing very wrong with The Night Projectionist- I just don’t know who I could recommend it to. It’d have to be a reader who not only loved vampires, but loved them more than artwork, storyline and originality. If that’s not you, however, then all I can say is that this book should be tactfully avoided- it won’t contain anything you haven’t heard or seen before.