"The Night Projectionist" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Studio 407
Written by Robert Heske
Illustrated by Diego Yapur
2012, 136 Pages
Graphic Novel Released on July 4th, 2012
I've been following the release of The Night Projectionist for some time now. As one of the first books from new publisher Studio 407, the comic focuses on a movie theater in a small town as a vampire battle erupts and the mysterious projectionist is the only one that seems to know what's going on. Meanwhile a group of people are stuck in the middle of this bloody battle, struggling for their lives.
All of this sounds great on paper, but The Night Projectionist fails in its execution. The title character (aka Dragos) puts on his tough guy pants in an attempt to out-badass the vampire that sired him. He alternates between not caring about the people stuck in the theater and trying to get them to safety. He does, however, take time out of his fight to explain his entire backstory in a struggling display of exposition. This theater has been here for what seems like forever and no one ever cared enough to ask this guy where he came from before, but suddenly it's all the rage.
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The OG vamp is this guy named Baruk who treats his other bloodsucking buddies like a big dysfunctional family. They're all his "children" and he will do anything for them unless they rebel like Dragos. This presents one of the bigger plot holes in the Night Projectionist. Dragos makes it pretty clear that he was completely under Baruk's control when he was turned. He was forced to kill a ton of people, but then he bites one particular person and all of a sudden he has enough free will to get a gypsy to pull out whatever control Baruk had over him.
The helpless humans that are watching this battle rage on are basically cannon fodder. They're all given thinly veiled back stories, but each of them fit a particular stereotype. There's the annoying jock and the airhead cheerleader, the misunderstood goth chick and her hapless guy friend, the innocent young boy and the single mom, and the crotchety old grandparents who own the theater. Toss in a corrupt mayor and a stubborn sheriff and you've got yourself a big pot of who cares.
There's a good story within The Night Projectionist, but it just can't get out of its own way. Author Robert Heske presents some unique spins on the vampire mythos, especially when it comes to exterminating the blood suckers. He just bounces from character to character so quickly that by the time you've focused on what's going on, you're in a new scene with another set of people. There's some fat that could easily be trimmed in the form of extra characters that don't do much to add to the story, such as the mayor's deadbeat son. He seems to have a prominent role in the beginning of the book until a carbon copy of him (the annoying jock) pops up in the theater. Now you've got two people vying for that role.
Click images to enlarge.
Diego Yapur illustrated The Night Projectionist and manages to keep up with the frantic pace that Heske sets with the story. The book does not stop moving for even a second. Blood is flying. Heads are rolling. Vampire wolves are biting people. There's a lot going on and Yapur captures it all.
The Night Projectionist is a great premise but needs a bit more polish. The dialogue is comparable to an episode of CSI: Miami (YEAAHHHHHHH) and the story could be more concise. It does deliver on the action, though, with a thoroughly gory vampire massacre. Heske updates the legends surrounding these members of the undead in a way that can fit within the modern day and leaves the story open enough to continue on with another chapter. I'm just hoping that things are a bit cleaner next time.