Writer/Artist: Ted Naifeh
Publisher: Oni Press
A bard, a mage, an assassin, a cleric, and a thief meet in secret to steal untold treasure from a cult growing in the heart of the city of Umber, but when their heist uncovers a plot to destroy all of Umber, they must decide if they will fight for the city, or watch as it burns to the ground.
Night’s Dominion by Ted Naifeh creates a fantasy world that is immediately engrossing, with a cast of likeable anti-heros and a plot that expertly balances small character moments with epic, large-scale battles. It draws you in from the moment it opens on the Maestro telling the tale of a long forgotten hero, and doesn’t let go until it’s told its own tale of mythic scale and heartfelt emotion.
The most striking thing to me about Night’s Dominion is the way it balances character moments. The thief Emerane, known as The Night, who steals in the hope of one day having enough money to free her brother from his debtor’s prison. The assassin Azmeer, disgraced from his brotherhood after he was unable to kill an innocent for the good of the city. The acolyte Corentine, his faith in the gods shaken in the face of all the horrors that happen everyday in the city. The magus Wikar, cynical by nature and struggling with the idea of having friends, or being a hero. The Furie, a Knight of Umber who has begun to question the worth of protecting a city so corrupt to its core. And of course, the Masetro, the bard who drew them all together to be protectors of the city. Each of them are compelling in their own ways, and their stories and relationships to each other are explored in a way that plays nicely off of the faster action scenes, giving the story a solid pace.
The art does a good job creating a sense of place and scale. Umber has a certain personality to it at night or in the light of day, and each location, whether it be a prison, a tavern, the tower of a cult, or the palace of parliament, has a distinct feeling. Smaller scenes between characters feel more closed in and intimate, whereas the art is able to open up and give the proper sense of scale to larger battles. About the only place it stumbles is in giving smaller fight scenes a sense of movement. The sequence of the art is too spaced out, often making it confusing to understand what exact action or movement a character took. It feels a little too fast most of the time. Character designs are all distinct and interesting, though the similar looking hoods Emerane and Azmeer wear make it easy to confuse the two occasionally.
Ultimately, Night’s Dominion reveals itself to be a sort of origin story for our ragtag protectors of Umber, but the story isn’t hampered by this. As the story reaches a climax, it creates a mythic scale and raises the stakes, which could be difficult to top in future, but as a self-contained story, it works. It sets the character’s up for future adventures in this world, and I personally can’t wait to see what those adventures may be.
The world and characters of Night’s Dominion are incredibly engaging, and I can’t wait to follow them on more brilliantly told and beautifully illustrated stories.
Geek-o-Rama received a copy of this book for the purpose of this review. All thoughts, comments and opinions are those of the individual reviewer.