“Sundowners” #1 introduces us to a group of masked vigilantes seeking support and psychological help for a heretofore undiagnosed condition. ‘Sundowning,’ the titular focus of this story, is a syndrome experienced by these would-by superheroes. We, the audience, are invited to sit in on their sessions and judge for ourselves who, or how, we can trust in this complicated reality. Seeley and Terry have created a riddle of a narrative that is sure to keep audiences guessing, on a variety of levels.
Written by Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Jim Terry
Faster than lightning! Stronger than steel! Crazier than an outhouse rat? Enter the Sundowners-sworn to protect humanity from interdimensional invaders! But is the threat real, or is it all in their heads?
* From Tim Seeley (Revival, Hack/Slash, The Occultist)!
*A dark look at the thin line between heroism and insanity!
What greater mystery is there than the human mind? And what greater ally does heroism have than madness? The world of “Sundowners” examines complex questions like this in a very engaging way. We are introduced to psychologist, Dr. David “Shreds” Shrejic, as he announces that he has discovered a never before studied diagnosis. Despite his auspicious credentials, Dr. Shrejic seems unqualified to lead the support group for ‘sundowners.’ We learn early on that there is some reason that Shrejic is not allowed to practice psychology in a normal setting. In his first interaction with his sister-in-law and fellow psychologist Jen Brunner, it is obvious that she seems to feel that he is fragile, anxious and, most importantly, in over his head. Shrejic is only the first of many less-than-credible characters we meet through the course of the first issue.
Seeley introduces several characters who seem to be completely unreliable narrators. This is an effective and interesting way to frame a mystery. We have no idea what might be real, what might be delusion, and what hazy truth may lie in the boundaries between the two extremes. This issue begins with a third person omniscient narration, bringing us into this intricate, mysterious world. Though we are never sure who might be telling us this story, it is instantly clear that we are meant to be observers here, a jury of sorts, trying to find the truth in this new and disorienting reality created by Seeley and Terry. These choices create a very intriguing voice that is unique to this series.
In a group therapy session we are introduced to four vigilantes: Crowlita, The Concerned Citizen, Arcanika, and Karl, all of whom suffer from the mysterious syndrome known as ‘sundowning.’ Dr. Shrejic facilitates a discussion which allows us to become acquainted with each character’s sense of reality and themselves. Crowlita is an angry exotic dancer with a vivid imagination. The Concerned Citizen, or ‘Citizen’ as most people call him, has a textbook hero complex. Arcanika believes that she is given the ability to do good works through the commission of sins; she is especially fond of breaking the eighth commandment.
Then there is Karl. Karl seems to be a bit of a enigmatic anathema within the group. Years older than the others, the integrity of Karl’s memory seems to be compromised. The others all seem to have either voluntarily or unknowingly skewed their personal perceptions, but Karl’s very reality seems somehow tainted, or is it? He seems to have more concrete information on the strange phenomena tormenting the group than anyone else. In a brilliant twist of craft, Seeley may have given the least reliable narrator the most information. The cast is full of unique voices, and equally unique appearances. In his character work as well as storytelling Terry forces readers to consider different points of view.
Echoing the surrealism of the story, Terry’s art captures a slight tilt on the way in which we are accustomed to seeing the world. Set in the city of Chicago, there is a griminess and a grittiness in his illustration that portrays a uniquely urban feel. Amid the sprawling skyline of this city, we are invited to join the characters in small intimate environments, as they confide in one another, and in us, the audience. Dark throughout, the action of this story seems to emerge from the shadows almost unwillingly. There is something in Terry’s work that reminds me of the iconic movie poster for Chinatown, which is a pitch perfect match for this narrative.Continued below
Sean Dove’s contribution as a colorist is worth noting. Subjective, psychedelic tones make this entire story feel like glorious madness. There is a dreamlike quality in the final visual product. The environments seem almost detached from reality, and the color palette reinforces that departure from the mundane. There is a vintage feeling to the artwork in “Sundowners” #1, hearkening back to the artistic styles of a bygone era that perfectly suits the fantastic nature of the story. Pulpy and poppy, these hearty, bold illustrations help set this book apart.
Every detail of this book forces us to question the sanity of the characters, the reality of their experiences and the forces driving the story forward. Seeley and Terry have produced a very promising first issue in “Sundowners” #1. Blending the occult with superhero storytelling conventions and wrapping all that up as a psychological thriller, the creative team has definitely found a fresh take on the noir mystery genre. Engaging the reader until the very end, the team behind “Sundowners” #1 will have you second guessing your second guesses before the issue is through. The mystery is as much about the plot that is unfolding, as it is about whether or not there is any mystery at all. An inspired examination of mental illness, bravery and delusion, this book offers an in depth look at some truly novel subject matter. All in all the innovative storytelling makes this a very stimulating read.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – A fascinating look at the mental state of superheroes, you’d have to be crazy not to give it a chance.