Nearly five years after it was published, I still can’t make up my mind as to whether Benjamin Marra’s “Terror Assaulter: One Man War On Terror” is either the greatest thing I’ve read or the dumbest. “Night Business,” on the other hand, is considerably easier to wrap my head around. It’s the creator’s ode to the sweaty, trashy, bloody glory of 80’s cinema that’s filled to the brim with strippers, drug dealers, serial killers, cults, and street thugs. The title’s protagonist, Johnny Timothy, is one of the latter, working as an enforcer for Glitz Glam, a company that manages dancers. Both artistic and exotic. Unfortunately for them, there’s a masked killer going around and murdering strippers with a knife. Johnny knows that this is bad for business, but it doesn’t become personal until Chase, one of his friends and the company’s best dancer, gets knifed within an inch of her life.
If you think that this is going to lead our hero down a complicated path of vengeance, violence, and violent vengeance, then you’d be absolutely correct. Not that he’s the only one to head down that path, as Chase has her own agenda to follow once she’s out of the hospital. This is a much longer work than “Terror Assaulter” and presented in a more straightforward fashion as well. Which can lead you to feel that Marra is simply going through a checklist of 80’s tropes that he wanted to include here. Yet, there’s still a feeling of self-awareness in the dialogue that lets you know the creator isn’t taking things too seriously. The same is true of the art, which feels like it starts at self-parody and then tries to work its way back towards actual seriousness.
All of this leads me to believe that publisher Fantagraphics will only publish either comics that function as high art, or are dumb enough to make early 90’s Image titles look as such. “Night Business” clearly trends towards the latter, even if it feels like there’s enough craft behind it to keep it from fully crossing over into “so bad it’s good” territory. It’s still a fun read for those who can appreciate the trashiest bits of 80’s culture.