Author: Brad Langer
Genre: Comedy, Action, Slice of Life
This is a comic that features miniature vampires. Like, only three or four inches tall. And you kill them by jabbing toothpicks through their tiny little chests like cocktail weiners. The concept is so ridiculous that I should be excited to write about this comic because of how memorable and stupidly awesome it is. And yet, the comic lacks anything memorable about it that I've been putting the review off for two weeks and by the time I finish this review I'll probably never think about it again. Sadly, this insane premise doesn't make up for the uninteresting characters, poorly executed plot, and decent at best art.
The story starts with the protagonist Jason Jones, asleep in his bed when he is attacked by a miniature vampire named Toby the Impaler, who thinks Jason is part of some ancient vampire prophesy to kill off the entire race of mini vampires. Jason sees him as an a pest and the vampire hides behind the stove. Jason calls his friends David and Rebecca over, and they talk about Jason's failed date because his ex came and punched his date out for no reason. He gets David and Rebecca to stay and keep watch for Toby by bribing them with a copy of Mario Kart Double Dash, though they're later attacked by two other vampires in a large robot black widow. They defeat the vampires. The next day, Jason's date calls to schedule another date while the mini vampires plan their next attack.
From the beginning, I assumed that the whole vampire prophesy, as delivered by the bombastic Toby the Impaler, who even admits that it's unlikely that someone “quite lazy and stupid, and overly uncomely,” could be the prophesied harbinger of doom, was a parody. In literature, movies, games, etc. the whole “You're The One wizard Jedi with the Ring of Power, Harry! Now go on the Hero's Journey carousel and ride it like your life depends on it!” is a massive cliché, so I expected the whole thing to be a huge joke about the unlikely prophetic hero who still saves the day anyways. And in some ways, it is a humorous take on it. Toby's ideas of destroying the enemy are thumbtacks to the nose and drawing mustaches on Jason's face. But then the Black Widow Widow Maker comes in with dagger feat and it's treated like a legitimate threat as well as the multiple scenes of the mini vampires vaguely plotting their next move, making it hard to tell whether this is something to take seriously or not (though it would work a lot better as a parody, considering the vampires went out of the way to antagonize him in the first place, which would be a clear case of a self-fulfilling prophesy).
While the fumbled plot could have been saved by decent characters, the three cast members aren't interesting enough to carry the story. Jason is an everyman character whose own defining trait is that he likes nerdy things like video games, comic books, and cosplay. But then again, so do his friends and people in crowd scenes, so calling it a defining trait would be overstating it. David is similar to Jason, though maybe slightly more perverted. And Rebecca has anger problems, which makes me think it's hypocritical to treat it like it's an amusing quirk for Rebecca but what makes Jason's ex an evil psycho.
Speaking of nerdy interests, early on in the comic, the comic is filled with little background details that reference nerdy pop culture stuff like old cartoons, video games, etc. and early author comments would list every single one. While not many people would know the local television news stations, anyone who has ever played Pac-Man would know what the ghosts look like, and even the most casual of comic readers would recognize the X-Men insignia. Considering he has advertised his comic on reddit (and part of me thinks the comic title is a reference to a reddit catchphrase), his intended audience should definitely catch the references. He does stop listing them after a while though, so it's a minor issue. But like how reference humor does little to to make a work actually funny, the constant references do little except establish that the characters are nerdy and like nerdy things, and don't do anything except remind me of things I'd much rather be reading/watching/playing.
The art is in black and white, and done mostly using traditional methods. The comic is shaded using a combination of hatching and occasional gray fills and effects. The hatching is competently done, though the effect is somewhat diminished when he draws lines marking where he wants the hatching to end and filling it with the hatch. Though there are times when the hatching really shines, like when Toby the Impaler is first introduced. The rest of the art is decent, though with Rebecca her facial expressions tend to be inappropriate for the situation, such as her deadfaced reaction to things that would elicit a more appropriate response or her overreaction to things that are incredibly minor. I don't know if that's a result of clumsy characterization or an inability to depict subtler variations of expression, but either way it's something to improve on. Finally, there is a slight problem with fills, where the antialiasing around an object leaves a thin white halo. It's an easy thing to fix though.
Narwhal Knight is a low-to-decent comic with nothing really going for it except for the absurd premise of miniature vampires. The characters are either bland and unlikable, and the constant shout outs do little to make the comic notable itself. The art is decent with some moments of wonderful hatching work but has some wonky facial expressions and some minor mistakes that could be easily fixed. I won't say that the comic lacks any potential, and maybe it will pick up steam in the future. But right now, it's just mediocre.
Correction: In a previous version of the review, our officer wrote that the comic was done digitally. According to Langer, the comic is done "99.9% traditional," with pencils, pens, and markers. Internal Affairs will conduct an investigation regarding this breach of protocol the officer will be