With The All-Nighter, Chip Zdarsky and Jason Loo have created something special.
There's no other way to say it.
This is one of those books I should have and could have been reading a lot earlier than I ended up doing. I remember this first being announced on Zdarsky's newsletter, and somehow despite knowing I could read Snyder's latest Comixology offerings free on there with Prime, I didn't quite realise I could check this out as well, for whatever reason.
Then the trade came out, and Comic Book Couples Counselling podcast had a great and really interesting interview with Zdarsky and Loo.
After that reminder and endorsement from a podcast I love, I had to finally check it out, and I'm so glad I did.
You know when you're starting something and you can tell right away you're going to love it? That was the case with this book for me. As prominently talked about in the CBCC interview, there is a lot going on here, and at times it doesn't feel like it should work. Not only does it absolutely work, but the way it all cleanly and nicely fits together makes for such a fascinating and satisfying reading experience, as everything slowly unravels over the course of the volume.
The series starts by introducing the central premise, vampires blending into human society by running an all-night diner. And if that completely piques your interest like it did mine, then oh boy strap in because it only gets wilder and more entertaining from there.
That basic idea on it's own is one of those where I was honestly amazed that no-one had come up with it yet (to my knowledge) because it just sounds like guaranteed fun. Especially in the hands of a brilliant writer such as Zdarsky, who has been known for some great comedy in his books for many years now.
This could have been a compelling story on it's own, but it's not the story Zdarsky and Loo end up telling. As the synopsis for this series puts it, the main character, Alex, gets bored. As a fan of superheroes, when he ventures out and notices crime he wants to stop, you can start to see where this is going.
Or at least, you think you can.
Even the idea of "superhero fan becomes superhero to fight crime" isn't exactly original, but the way it's weaved into everything else is what made it such a compelling read for me. Because yes, it's about Alex as a new superhero, it's about the all-night vampire-run diner, which also would have both been enough, but there's yet more ideas and themes explored here which just make it so entertaining and interesting.
That's where I'm trying to be as vague as possible while also talking about how much I like it, because it's a great feeling first time round genuinely not being sure what's going to happen next or where it's going to go.
I will say though, there were a couple comics that this made me think of while I was reading. I recently read the original series of Black Hammer for the first time, so the ideas of found family and superheroes definitely made me think of that. Also, Department of Truth, which is a much looser relation, but once you get into it hopefully it becomes clear what I mean by that.
Both fantastic comics that you should absolutely check out if you haven't already.
I apologise because I should have talked about it sooner, but after all that I just want to spend a moment spotlighting my thoughts on the awesome artwork, coloring and lettering in this book. I hadn't ever heard of Loo before this, I'd vaguely heard of Afterlift because of Zdarsky but haven't got round to reading it yet. In a story like this where there's lots of wild concepts flying around, but also some insightful and meaningful character moments, it can be hard to get that balance right, but I think Loo does it really well.
He manages to convey the emotion of the characters in the quieter scenes, but also the action scenes are awesome and dynamic to look at. It just nails that feel of these fantastical concepts appearing in this more grounded world which the story otherwise has.
Loo says in the back of the trade he was inspired by David Mazzucchelli's Batman design in Year One for Alex's costume, and I can definitely see that. It just feels like a classic superhero costume like you would expect and I love that.
This is all colored by Paris Alleyne, another creator who I hadn't heard of before this, but thought his work on this was great. Off the top of my head I can't think of any superheroes with purple as part of the main color scheme of their costume, but I think that's what makes Alex and Joy stand out so much here. It's striking and always instantly catches my eye. To me Alleyne's colors just generally bring that rich vibrancy to this that I always think a superhero comic should have. It always makes it that much more immersive and exciting to soak in and enjoy.
Last but certainly not least, special mention to Aditya Bidikar. I heard recently they've decided to take a hiatus from lettering, so I hope that they're okay, and that they get what they want out of their break from lettering. Bidikar is easily one of the best letterers in the business, as most notably showcased by a couple books in particular, but all of their work on most comics they do is so clean, crisp, and just generally well done. Letterers unfortunately don't always get the recognition they deserve, but it's always important for me to recognise what a vital role they play in making comics.
If you read this far, thank you! It means a lot. Go read The All-Nighter if you haven't already! I don't think you'll regret it. You can check it out for free on Comixology or Kindle if you have Comixology Unlimited, Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime. Also of course able to buy from those places as well, plus the first trade is available physically from Dark Horse Comics if that's what you'd prefer.
Let me know what you thought of this over on Twitter at JoeLovesComics, where you can find (albeit shorter) thoughts on other comics I love.