Writer: C. Michael Forsyth
Artist: Vincenzo Pietropaolo
Night Cage is an adult horror comic penned by C. Michael Forsyth, with pencils and ink done by Vincenzo Pietropaolo. The comic’s story revolves around a group of female prisoners trapped inside an underground maximum security prison, while a vampire turns all the other prisoners and staff into creatures of the night.
The overall feel of Night Cage is a nice blend of retro horror with modern art, as the dialogue and the crisp black and white art will remind older readers of 1960s horror comic books like The House of Mystery. The pacing is rather fast, even in this first issue: most ongoing series tend to take their time building the world and setting up plot springboards.
But Night Cage gets right down to business – it shows a wealthy mansion owner named Douglas Dane and his wife Sheila trying to fend off a vampire. And the vampire in question is not the handsome Anne Rice or Stephanie Meyer version. It’s the bald, deformed version popularized by the 1920s film Nosferatu.
The twist comes early – Sheila is already under the vampire’s thrall, betraying Douglas (whom readers can assume is her husband) by staking and beheading the man instead of helping subdue the vampire. The story then cuts to Sheila, now convicted, being transported to a maximum security facility that is built underground (something the now-vampire Sheila finds advantageous, because there’s no sunlight to fear).
This is the part where one of the minor flaws in Night Cage rears its head – the transitions between scenes are not as smooth as one would expect. A reader could easily get the impression that they missed a page or two. But it is a very minor complaint. The story is still easy to navigate even with the jumpy transitions. There is no danger of getting lost in the narrative, especially since the plot is straightforward: vampire woman wants to feed and turn people inside a high tech prison into vampires, while a handful of survivors try to fight back and survive.
That broad synopsis should not suggest that Night Cage is shallow. There is a lot of characterization present. Many of them are cliched stereotypes, but not to the point of being offensive. Prisons evoke stereotypes. You will always have corrupt prison wardens, racist inmates (from different races), prostitutes, and even a bible-thumping airhead that for all intents and purposes serves as the main protagonist. The story reads perfectly like a comic book version of 1980s slasher films, where the scares are supplemented by an healthy (or is it unhealthy?) dose of T & A, and a solid over-reliance on character archetypes which dictate behaviours and responses.
On that note, it is also time to address the “adult” part of the comic’s adult horror description. While this is not exactly the kind of comic that you’d want a child to read, it is not lurid enough to be considered smut. There are panels with suggestive poses and there are copious amounts of pages depicting women sans clothes. There are, surprisingly, no images of nipples or genitalia in the comic. We appreciate the fact that Night Cage makes use of its pages for things other than to titillate. But at the same time it would be disingenuous to claim that the comic is not leveraging sex as one of its selling points.
Art is easily one of the best parts of Night Cage, which is expected as it relies on images of beautiful women for its appeal. The art is crisp and detailed enough to represent attractive women. We can see shades of Michael Cho’s art, with the difference being that here the women are more realistically proportioned. This is a wise choice, given the amount of fighting and jumping around that women in Night Cage have done in the first issue. It would have ruined immersion to see non-vampire females with 38DDD sizes doing front flips and flying kicks. Night Cage‘s art is not a one-note – there are other body types in the comic, including elderly women, lanky bespectacled priests, musclebound female wardens, and portly middle aged women. It adds a lot of realism to the story knowing that it is not a world populated exclusively by the stunningly attractive. (Also, bikini models rarely end up in prison.)
The first volume we have read ends on a cliffhanger, as the remaining survivors scavenge weapons in preparation against a prison full of vampires. So, we cannot make a definitive judgment on the story’s quality ias a whole. We do like what we have read so far, and we assume readers will find it engaging enough to seek out the next volume. Barring our minor nitpicks with scene transitions and pacing, the writing is solid enough and the art attractive that we give Night Cage a solid recommendation.
[Editor’s note – this title is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com.au/Night-Cage-Vol-Michael-Forsyth/dp/1735923621 ]