Written by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel | Art by Lee Sullivan | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
So far the ‘Night Witch’ arc has been very entertaining, lots of nice character work adding to the ongoing storyline involving a lot of Russian things – Russian gangsters, Russian witches, Russian supernatural beings. To add to that volatile mix last issue we saw Lesley May take centre stage, former partner of Peter Grant, brought in by Russian billionaire Nestor Yakunin to try and persuade Peter and Inspector Nightingale to find his missing daughter, who he suspects has been abducted by a Leshy, a Russian forest monster. Lesley and Peter did not part on very good terms, and clearly something else is at play here under the surface. It all teed up very nicely for issue 3.
We start with Peter receiving a message from Nightingale himself, who has been kidnapped and explains he will only be released if Peter undertakes to hunt down the Leshy and find the girl. This he starts to do, but Nightingale has managed to send a coded message helping the Special Assessment Unit to identify the kidnappers. Peter gets Varvara Sidorovna, the seemingly ageless witch, to help him, in the course of which she discovers she has some new powerful enemies of her own back in Russia. Is she involved more than she realises? Or is she fully aware, and just choosing to be selective on what she tells Peter. I enjoyed the character dialogue very much this issue, lots of character interaction that always felt natural, never forced, and seemingly never cheaply used just for the sake of exposition.
The tone this issue was very much that of a police procedural, with the magic aspect of the story very much relegated to the background. Sure it is still there under the surface, but the main focus was on showing us that although PC Peter Grant is a wizard, he is also a trained police officer, and we got to see that aspect of him. Investigating various trails, following leads, considering suspects. It was nice to see, though admittedly didn’t add up to the most riveting of issues. I suspect we hit that most common of writing devices, the ‘treading water’ issue, where a few plot strands were advanced but the main story arc pretty much remains at the end as it was in the beginning. Nightingale is still a prisoner, the girl is still missing, and Lesley May still hasn’t made her play yet against Peter.
Lee Sullivan’s art continues to be excellent. He seems to adjust his layouts and panels to the tone of each issue, and this time round goes for a very orthodox look, an almost old fashioned several panels per page grid look. It works for this story, allowing the eye to follow the story in an easy fashion, and any attempt at flashy or over the top large panel splashes would have stood out like a sore thumb, as this relatively low key issue needed a low key approach to the visuals too. A writer’s artist I believe is the term.
A bit of a slow burner this time round, but still entertaining and a few more pieces added to the existing puzzle, even as we discover that puzzle is actually larger than we first thought. The characters always entertain, and you always have the impression something big is just around the corner. The ‘tease’ is part of the armoury of a good writer, and Aaronovitch and Cartmel can tease with the best of them. I am certainly looking forward to what next issue brings, as I’m willing to bet we are going to move up a gear or two as plots and sub plots start to intertwine and resolutions begin to occur.
What’s Russian for ‘can’t wait’?
Rivers of London: Night Witch #3 is out now from Titan Comics