With three waves under their belt, it seems like TKO is getting more comfortable with experimenting. The TKO Shorts are inventive and unique, and while I’ve only read one of them, I’m excited to get my hands on the other two. Alex Paknadel and Steve Orlando both have some good heat behind them, and getting them to headline this wave feels like a no brainer while also being a bigger risk than other publishers would take. Add in the usual TKO production value, and the very cool oversized paperback format, and you’ve got me on the hook for everything. However, while Lonesome Days, Savage Nights is clearly one of the best-designed books on my shelf, I really wish it had experimented more as a story.
This story boiled down is basically, “what if Punisher wore a symbiote,” and that’s pretty much it. Stu’s an ex-cop who’s out for revenge and is also protecting the city. He’s also a werewolf. He kills some gangsters. He works with a cop. They do some extrajudicial copping. There’s at least one pretty good pun.
I have a couple of really big problems with the story, the primary being: are we really still doing this kind of cop story at the end of 2020? This is still interesting to people? The good cop who got fired and gets to help the only other good cop on the force to topple the bad vaguely non-white gangsters? I dunno, maybe this particular thing just isn’t for me, but I think it could have been done less generically. It’s extremely tropey, which isn’t always a bad thing, but using these tropes in a year where it feels more obvious than ever that cops aren’t heroes feels like at best a misstep and at worst a gross statement. Even when the story makes a point of saying that the cops are corrupt, it also points out Stu’s love of being a cop, and his partner being a good one. And again, besides that, why not do something new? This series sticks so closely to what I’d expect from a Batman or Punisher comic that I can still see the serial numbers. I think this story would have been greatly improved by straying from the pulp stories it is clearly inspired by.
My other big problem is a bit of a spoiler for the first issue, so skip this paragraph if you want to go in cold. At the end of the first issue, Stu’s girlfriend gets killed by gangsters. Her murder spurs him to act throughout the rest of the series, and he sees her intermittently, which helps him continue with his revenge and also keep control of himself. In my opinion, all of this is lazy, but more than that, it’s frustrating. Why is a woman getting fridged in the first issue of a comic in 2020? Did this book secretly come out decades ago? It’s extremely disappointing that a story with such deep roots in pulp isn’t self aware enough to know not to kill off a woman just to push the main dude’s story forward. This just is not it at all.
As for the art team, I am surprised at how much I like Szymon Kudranski’s art here. I still find it odd how often he decides to focus on mouths or their random facial features, and I think a lot of the action feels stiff, but in all it’s competent linework. Where I was really surprised was the coloring. The very limited palette did a good job at heightening the pulp feel (not that it needed it) and allowed the pops of color to really stand out. The art is easily the highlight of this series, especially for any fans of Kudranski.
I kept hoping Lonesome Days, Savage Nights would do anything besides the obvious, but it never did. It leaned into every critique I have of the pulp/vigilante genre with zero self awareness or understanding of how hurtful those tropes can be, to the story, and to readers. I was excited to give a TKO book a try sight unseen, but I’m disappointed that this was worth one third of their 2020 line.