Lonesome Days, Savage Nights
Writers: Steve Niles & Salvatore Simeone
Artist: Szymon Kudranski
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: TKO Studios
Police officers and werewolves are normally on opposite sides of the law, but in TKO Studios’ Lonesome Days, Savage Nights, things are a bit different. Equal parts noirish detective story and monsterific B-Movie, the book follows Stu, a police officer turned private investigator who was brutally assaulted and transformed into a werewolf during his first night on the force. The slight amount of control he gains over the situation disappears when his girlfriend Audrey is an innocent bystander in a gang incident that leaves Stu alone and out of control of his darker tendencies.
Co-written by Steve Niles, creator of 30 Days of Night, and Salvatore Simeone, a racecar driver turned software guru who is dipping his toes into fiction for the first time with Lonesome Days, Savage Nights, the book has a clear, coherent voice throughout. Simeone may have the sole story credit here, but the two do a great job of blending their styles together to make sure the book feels like the expression of a singular vision. Szymon Kudranski handles art duties for the book and elevates every page with his dark, shadowy style.
The lynchpin that holds Lonesome Days, Savage Nights together is really Kudranski’s moody, grim artwork. Kudranski has the sole art credit for the series, illustrating and coloring everything the reader sees. He’s clearly unafraid to experiment with panel layouts as each page feels like the perfect blend of smaller images and more cinematic, wide-screen shots. The werewolf design is super enjoyable and looks like a cross between Beast from Beauty and the Beast and well… Beast from X-Men. His choice of color palette, a lot of shadowy grays punctured by bloody reds, adds to the book’s noirish look and helps guide the reader’s eye to key details on the page.
Letterer Thomas Mauer also delivers some sharp, disciplined work. His unique choice of fonts for expressing sound effects in particular perfectly blend in with the artwork and add to the page rather than make things more cluttered. Simple things, like using a different font set for Stu’s monster voice compared to his normal thoughts, add to the overall atmosphere and make it easier to follow his dueling personalities and desires.
A bit predictable at moments, the plot is brisk and to the point. There’s not much fat to trim off here from a story perspective, as everything shown is essential to either developing Stu’s inner turmoil or the destructive forces tearing the city apart. With that said, nothing in the story or character development realm breaks new ground — it just kind of moves along to its natural conclusion of Stu facing off with some gangs. Everything is fairly predictable, even a bit hokey at moments, and even though Stu clearly grows from the beginning to the end of the series it all seems a bit too neat and obvious.
One of the main problems holding Lonesome Days, Savage Nights back is the dialogue. The book is clearly serious and Stu is going through some dark emotions, but the dialogue feels more melodramatic than compelling or realistic. Certain scenes and characters definitely have better lines than others, but there’s just a laughably simple quality to most of the dialogue that it’s hard to escape. Thankfully, Kudranski more than makes up for some of the words on the page with some beautifully expressive faces that perfectly display how characters are feeling in key moments.
To me, the book’s strengths lie in its subtle world building. Lonesome Days, Savage Nights may be part of TKO Studios’ third wave of titles alongside books like The Pull and Redfork, but it stands as its own self-contained world and franchise. Rather than dump too much exposition on the audience about the history of werewolves or the city’s raucous gangs, Lonesome Days, Savage Nights drops the reader right in the middle of the action and stays focused on moving things forward. Stu does most of the heavy lifting from a “stopping the bad guy” perspective, but friend/partner Detective Ritchie provides some good comic relief and serves as a pretty good straight-man in this crazy universe. The book is entertaining in its own right, but the creative team left the door, and the world’s mysteries, open just wide enough for a potential sequel to be compelling and expansive rather than a retread of similar story elements.