The first issue of Dark Horse Comics’ Sundowners by Tim Seeley and Jim Terry should be more ungainly than it is. Combining the “if superheroes were real, they’d be nuts” cynicism of Kick-Ass with the paranoid urban fantasy of The Maxx, it’s way more graceful (and funnier) than it has any right to be.
In a world where putting on a costume and punching things in the night is becoming commonplace for a certain strain of delusional citizen, Sundowners follows a support group for one collection of would-be superheroes under the care of Dr. David “Shreds” Shrejic. He’s convinced that his four patients are each suffering from distinct yet shared delusions, a belief that while wearing their costumes, they’re able to see shadowy figures pulling the strings of the world, possibly for nefarious ends.
Seeley borrows the terms “Sundowners” for Dr. Shrejic’s patients, describing the often nocturnal appearance of these boogeymen (cribbed from the longer “sundown syndrome” which is the increased confusion which afflicts dementia and Alzheimer’s patients), and away we go.
If it were somehow slicker or more polished, Sundowners wouldn’t work. But thanks to Jim Terry’s angular art and Sean Dove’s Halloween colors, the book revels in a kind of mid-’80s grime. The city is dirty, the people are crazy, and we’re all doomed to get messed up by creepy shadow people. It’d be dire if Dr. Shrejic’s patients – baring their soul in a dingy rec center – weren’t so compellingly messed up.
There’s Crowlita, the dancer in a dominatrix costume who’s maybe the only one who doesn’t belong there; Concerned Citizen comes off a Casey Jones by way of Rorschach, convinced that lizard people have infiltrated the ghetto; Arkanica is convinced that she gains her superpowers by committing sins; and the elderly Patient Wolf might be battling some kind of biological dementia, even if he probably did see a cop’s head melt into a LSD-tinged kaleidoscope of colors.
Sundowners isn’t really about embracing all of the superhero tropes – I’m not even convinced that it wants to spend a lot of time sending them up. There’s a mystery here involving the shadow people, and these four screwed-up individuals (and their doctor) may end up being the only people able to confront it. The final panel suggests that things are about to go from paranoid to full-on creep show, leaving just enough weirdness to keep me intrigued for the next issue.