Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Review: The Strain Vol 1

Horror comics are my bread and butter, my broccoli and cheese, my dead baby and Worcestershire sauce, and whenever a new horror comic comes out in stores I am eager for something insidious, something terrifying, but most importantly, something new. Coming out tomorrow (November 13th) is David Lapham and Mike Huddleston's collected adaptation of Guillermo Del Torro and Chuck Hogan's novel The Strain. Although this comic might not be classified as something "new" since the source material is a book of the same name, it is safe to say the contents inside are sure to please most fans of the macabre. 

Here's a blurb pulled straight from the Dark Horse's mouth:

"When a Boeing 777 lands at JFK International Airport and goes dark on the runway, the Centers for Disease Control, fearing a terrorist attack, calls in Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team of expert biological-threat first responders. Only an elderly pawnbroker from Spanish Harlem suspects a darker purpose behind the event--an ancient threat intent on covering mankind in darkness."

The "ancient threat" they talk about are vampires. Is that so shocking? No, I don't think so. 

But the point of this vampire tale has more to do with the biological or scientific happenings behind vampirism rather than the occult. The words "outbreak" and "epidemic" are used enough to suggest these first chapters are leading to something much more deadly and devastating to mankind and it's only a matter of time before the entire world sees symptoms. Surprisingly for six issues of comics this first volume hardly moves past the third day mark in regards to a timeline, allowing very little to actually happen. My personal favorite chapters happen to have nothing to do with the present day situation, but rather the history of an old Russian Jew and his previous history with the head vampire. I won't give any of it away, because it's quite entertaining.
The only problem I had with the comics was Mike Huddleston's art. That's not to say that his cover art isn't amazing--the detail, the gory, brilliant detail--but the inside pages look plain and simple, nothing to call your nearest mate about. It bothers me that Dark Horse assumes that most of their horror comics should look like Mike Mignola comics, mainly heavy attention to Chiaroscuro. The end product never looks distinct. I honestly believe Dark Horse could have slapped a BPRD sticker on the cover and half the readers wouldn't have known the difference.

Besides this little side note, the story of The Strain is quite effective and I'm sure David Lapham did the source material justice (although I haven't read Del Toro and Hogan's book to make comparisons). I am curious to know just what any differences might be. About the story itself, I am slightly disappointed with the vampires. They are kind of clownish in their attributions, pasty and white as the Pillsbury Doughboy, with long, bloated tongues that act like stingers. I think Del Toro should have stopped with Vampires with his amazing creations in Blade 2, but for some reason he felt these creatures needed their own story too. 
Overall, I'd say this comic is entertaining and very coherent in structure and plot, the art is a bit bland for my tastes but gets the job done from a-z. If you're looking for some light reading (certainly lighter than the novel) pick up the Strain for a fun romp in the bone yard.

Overall: 3.5/5