A mysterious rash of broken clocks signals the (literal) rise of old horrors in this sly French import.
The action is as stylized as Fischer’s art-deco screen-print illustrations, which place semiabstract figures in claustrophobic cityscapes formed of geometric spaces, loud colors, glaring lights, and deep shadows. “This is my time,” begins the titular night watchman, self-assuredly setting off on his routine patrol with a lamp that looks inset into his cranium to provide illumination. But the appalling discovery that two of the city’s three towering clocks have been dismantled on his watch sends him on a long chase after a “Vagabond.” This turns out to be the night watchman’s predecessor—a robot who had in pre-clock Olden Times driven a plague of crocodilian nightmares down into the municipal sewers. The clocks’ destruction touches off a general riot, and then (with the narrative’s high-toned language pitching even further over the top) giant reptiles burst out again, “disgorging themselves into the streets through the suppurating wound of the sewers.” There’s nothing for it but to flee through those same noisome tunnels: “The city has digested us,” the narrator concludes, emerging alimentarily with a companion into sunlight. “I shall not light my lamp again.”
Readers may have trouble swallowing, much less digesting, the tale’s more rococo elements, but both the tone and the distinctive art play up its melodrama. (Graphic fantasy. 12-17)