Something odd haunts the halls of Lone Mountain College. It could be the gaggle of girls dressed up in pirate’s garb who follow the orders of a puppet, Aunt Azalea, or maybe the shenanigans of the mysterious Professor Massimo Ibex, who has been on sabbatical longer than any student has attended the school. It could also be the obese Officer Pinch who speaks with a lisp and covers up all the dead bodies that keep showing up.
When Kasper Keene’s camera is stolen and he is kidnapped, Judy Drood puts her detective skills to good use to figure out who is behind the killings and why the camera that she lent Kasper is so important. As the plot unravels, Drood and Keene risk life and limb as they discover the secret history of Lone Mountain College. They stumble upon a conspiracy that runs deep through the roots of the school, and they may not make it out of this caper alive; everywhere they turn, dead bodies are amassing.
Richard Sala spins a darkly funny, mysterious tale with amusing protagonists and devious antagonists. The assertive and arrogant Judy Drood serves as the perfect balance to the mousy, meek Kasper Keene. The villains, funny in their own right, also convey a level of ruthlessness and sadism that can chill the reader.
One of Sala’s most interesting techniques is the use of the eye shot, where the panels are circled as if seen out the eyes of someone. This technique brings the reader deep into the story. Black backgrounds are used in abundance in this piece, further setting the tone and atmosphere for the story. Sala goes farther in his contrasts by using normal-looking faces for the protagonists or sympathetic characters while his villains maintain certain comic or deformed attributes. The diamond-shaped head of Dr. Rhombus, the hammerhead outline of Dr. Pestle, and the pudgy, wrinkled face of Officer Pinch further illuminate the deviousness of these characters. For help in following the story, the back of the graphic novel provides a gallery of characters.
Sala’s quirkiest tactic deals with the use of censorship. Several times throughout the graphic novel, he doesn’t hesitate to show bare-chested women or particularly cruel murder. Yet he balks at using swears more extreme than “ass”. Instead, he uses explicative symbols (#@*&) to represent foul language. His censorship of language seems kind of silly in light of his lack of it in his images. Excessive text also plagues some sections of the story.
Mad Night keeps readers attention in a variety of ways, from the easy panel-to-panel flow to the quirky characters to the puzzling mystery. Sala proves his talents for mystery, comic books, and overall storytelling in this work.