Druillet’s The Night – Nihilistic Violence Borne Of Love And Anger

by Richard Bruton

A post-apocalyptic world of violence and death, an explosive expressive of an artist’s personal grief, The Night is a stunning work from a true master of Euro comics, Phillipe Druillet.

Anyone that knows Euro comics knows the name Phillipe Druillet, one of the most influential French comic artists, known for his incredible artwork, spectacular page design, amazing colors, all of which earned him the nickname ‘space architect’.

The Night is all that for sure, a work of apocalyptic fiction where drug-addict biker gangs face-off with barbarians in an all-out explosion of violence and bloody battle. Every page is a spectacular piece of art, incredible page designs, eye-popping colors… the works.

But, it’s so much more than that, as this is the book that sprang from the author’s intense personal grief, following the death of his wife Nicole to cancer in 1975.

Full of anger at the world that could let this terrible thing happen, Druillet’s response was to throw himself into creating.

The Night was the book that came from that grief and anger, an intensely personal thing filtered through Druillet’s imagery of psychedelia, apocalyptic nightmares, end of the world despair, and ultra-violence.

You can hear his pain and anger in his words of introduction, reprinted here from the original 1976 publication. He rages there about the betrayal of Nicole, the lack of medical breakthroughs in cancer treatments, the loss felt so raw, communicated so strongly in words and art.

This truly is such a dark tale, a real nihilistic view of the end of the world and of the absolute inevitability of death for us all, no matter who we are, all through the particular lens of his warring biker characters.

And if one page encapsulates all this… it’s this one…

That’s around the halfway point of The Night, where the chief biker Heinz loses his ‘fire’, realises the inevitability that everything is leading to his death.

It’s the way Druillet composes the page, those panels pulling our eyes down through the use of the blacks, whilst focusing tighter and tighter on Heinz’s face… it’s chilling, with his words simple and violent and then just simply resigned and afraid.

The whole book feels like a scream of raw energy, all the more so when you know of the book’s creation, the imagery raw, packing panels full of large figures, backgrounds of irradiated neon greens and yellows, the reds throughout either blood splatter or eerie, authoritarian eyes of the cops attempting to keep control in a world coming to its end.

There’s no subtlety here, not a bit. This is all-out anger on the page, channelled through opposing gangs and the cops, all struggling to survive in a nightmare world on its final days.

And as it goes on, the pace is incredible, working from pages of multiple horizontal pages through to a veritable explosion of full-page and multiple pages of grand page design, all of which has all the typically stunning and amazingly detailed artwork, drenched in color, absolutely a Druillet book.

And yes, the detailing, the incredible detailing. I used to decry digital comics in the past, but over the years of reviewing, I’ve come to appreciate just how useful and rewarding it is to be able to zoom tight on a panel, blowing it up way bigger than original size. It lets you see just how amazing the art is, so much incredible work, so much texture, the incredible line work, the amazing compositions on the page.

So zooming in gets you from this…

To this…

Yes… incredible.

And finally, at the end of it all, everything positively explodes with vivid, incredible pages full of hundreds, thousands of figures, the detailing gone insane, the imagery apocalyptic, death running wild, a final scream of absolute rage from the artist.

Until there is a glorious, emotional, and beautiful moment where we suddenly get to share in Druillet’s grief, in his love, in his sorrow, his anger, his joy, as the vision of his wife appears to all those caught up in this violent, bloody battle.

And we and they see something incredible appear, a psychedelic vision of something better, something beautiful, something just perfect in this vile and ugly world.

Druillet takes double-page spreads and fills them with intensity, psychedelics, imagery, detail, creating a true cacophony of noise and explosive violence that reaches its crescendo… and it is masterful, and it is beautiful, and it is terrible, and it is all, in the end, inevitable.

This is a book that is something very special, visceral, emotional. This is a book where an artist bears his soul, screaming out loud with grief and rage, channelling it through the medium he’s a master of.

There’s no-one else who could make a book of drug-addled bikers and barbarians at the end of days and create something that tells of a love and a life lost.

No-one but Druillet.

At the end of The Night, you come away with so much, but the overwhelming feeling is that we should all wish to find a love as strong as this.

And to be able to share it with Druillet… that’s a special thing.

The Night by Philippe Druillet, translated by Edward Gauvin, published by Titan Comics.

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