The Unlikeable/Relatable Paradox: Image’s All Nighter

Image Comics All Nighter #1 is the type of book that can grab a varied audience’s attention and not let go. How it does this is through the artistic and narrative skill of writer and artist David Hahn, which offers a strong protagonist, varied supporting characters and a style and aesthetic that captures the genre’s spirit. It also helps to be published by a company with a track record of offering up wide-ranging titles that hit upon cultural touchstones, ethical debates and social criticisms.

All Nighter was originally planned to be released as a graphic novel through DC’s Minx line. After the imprint was shuttered, the book was left without a home until Image picked it up and the title was serialized into a five-issue miniseries. It certainly still has the feel of a Minx title, with its plucky yet flawed heroine and its small diversified supporting characters.

But as another Minx title, New York Four, became serialized as New York Five, so too does All Nighter for Image. It’s the type of title that is missing from the roster of most of the major publishers – something that has strong appeal for female readers, but is very much an all audiences story. The Li’l Depress Boy is a related stable mate, and along with it, shows a strong attempt at a diversified line by Image.

Too often the capes and cowls crowd dominate the medium. They are an over bearing genre, whose sales have justified their clout, but have stagnated the creative growth of an entire industry. The popularity of other genres in comics has certainly opened the door for more varied faire. All Nighter, the victim of a poor publishing model, is thankfully resurrected by a company whose recent output has been a welcome change to all the tights and square jaws.

Flawed protagonists are at the heart of any piece of literature. They drive the story. If they were perfect everything would be concluded in a few sentences and the boredom of life would come creeping back to us faster than a lightning bolt. Flawed characters are the ones we can connect with, they entice us to read more, to understand their perspective and to see how they will react and adjust to the adversity put before them. All Nighter presents us with an imperfect heroine, who in any other circumstance would be unlikeable, but through literary and comic skill, is transformed into someone relatable.

This combination of unlikeable and relatable is seemingly a paradox – why would you want to read about someone you don’t like? Is it the chance for redemption? Do you share the same flaws? Whatever the reason, there is present in All Nighter that flawed character who is so enticing, you can’t turn away from their “misadventure.”

Kit Bradley is the tomboy, punk rock, youth in revolt, girl next door. She’s the type of character everyone remembers from high school – talented with dreams and ambitions, but something keeps getting in her way. Her relatable nature, yet unique characterization, is the driving force for All Nighter. The rest of the cast, aside from off-again-on-again boyfriend Dwayne, are too much in the periphery for us to get a firm handle on them, but as demonstrated in issue one, they have the potential to be as enticing and as thought provoking as our heroine.

Kit is flawed: in the way she handles breaking up with boyfriend; in the way she take a huge risk to earn some coin; in the way she handles her roommates. There is not a moment of perfect bliss for her, and in what plotlines she sets in motion, there doesn’t seem to be any potential either. But everything is related, and so too is the hunt for yet another roommate and the meeting of another roommates’ current love interest. How these will relate to everything else going on in Kit’s world are yet to be determined, but the set-up is perfectly engaging. All Nighter may have been originally conceived as a complete graphic novel, but it hasn’t lost a step in its serialization.

Writer and artist Hahn has always had a strong perspective. That type of talent is on full display in this opening chapter. His dialogue, narration, pencils and inks are at their most seductive. This isn’t a sexy book by any means, but the blend of pictures, words and story certainly makes it an attractive piece of contemporary comic book literature. The seductiveness derives from the execution he achieves from pages one to three. Those panels are lures, meant to entrap even casual readers into a story that is at times a soap opera, a heist flick and a young derelict drama.

All Nighter is a paradox: unlikeable but relatable main character, sure; but how does a book like this dropped by one publisher end up on the racks by another publisher? Dc’s Vertigo imprint certainly could have had a crack at it. Whatever the case, thankfully Image put the wheels in motion to get this title to the direct market. It’s the type of title indicative of a publisher trying to escape the confines of a medium dominated by a single genre. All Nighter is by no means a perfect book – it is nearly there. And it by no means stretches the possibilities of the medium – however handsomely put together and delivered. But it’s a very well written and drawn contemporary comic book that presents a relatable story with a flawed but appealing protagonist. David Hahn, thank you.

RATING 9 / 10