Image: Fantagraphics

Drugs and strip clubs.

The dancers return home alone through the city night.

Assassins watch from alleyways in the city night.

Johnny represents the dancers of the city night.

Johnny will not allow anything to happen to his girls in the city night.

These five sentences introduce players to the world of Benjamin Marra’s Night Business in the video game tie-in to his new graphic novel, boiling down Marra’s concept to its core elements. Fantagraphics is really leaning into Night Business’ ’80s roots for the promotion of the graphic novel, releasing both a side-scrolling beat-’em-up video game and grainy VHS-style trailer. The trailer shares some similarities with the one released for Connor Willumsen’s Anti-Gone from Koyama Press—one of The A.V. Club’s Best Comics of 2017—and it’s fun to see cartoonists playing around with video and showing how their perspectives translate to a new medium. The video game is a particularly inspired advertisement, providing a simplified, flatter version of the graphic novel’s story and artwork that draws attention to how Marra fleshes out this basic concept.

This exclusive preview of Night Business showcases that higher level of detail as it takes readers into one of the strip clubs, following one of the exotic dancers as she wraps up her shift, scores some cocaine, and gets murdered by a masked slasher. The comic-book medium allows Marra to delve deeper into the inner lives of these characters without losing the attitude and energy of trashy ’80s action movies, and while his approach to women is in line with the objectification and misogyny of the genre, he uses narration to explore how these women relate to their exotic dancing and why they’ve chosen this life.

The violence is far grislier than those video game punches, and that final shot of Jazzie’s killer standing over her dead body is an especially powerful moment thanks to Marra’s intensely graphic composition and contrast. There’s a greasy quality to Marra’s artwork, and it gives his urban environments a different kind of grit that most comic-book cities. If you touched these walls, you’d probably end up with some kind of slick residue on your fingers. Readers can get their hands dirty when Night Business go on sale December 20, but in the meanwhile, check out the video game, trailer, and excerpt for a multimedia tease.

Image: Fantagraphics
Image: Fantagraphics

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