How is it I’m so lazy as to not even bother reviewing the footage for my first episode, even though I now have a lot of time? Well, the subject of that has to do with vampires, so I guess this is fitting.
Something a lot of detractors of the Twilight series of books that really annoys me these days is the superficial criticisms of the vampires therein. Namely, that they sparkle. Now don’t get me wrong, it is pretty silly for creatures typically known for their affinity night to not only be fine in the light of day, but also to sparkle like they’ve covered their skin with glitter.
However, let me make it clear that vampires, being nonexistent creatures of myth, have no hard and fast traits. After all, the traits typically assigned to them are vague and unspecific, and many series devote a great deal of time laying out the ground rules. Twilight seems to be going for making their vampires mineral or marble-like, as if they’re statues made animate. Which can be pretty decent, so long as it’s handled right.
My criticism of Twilight stems more from it having a completely un-engaging romance, a rabid fan base, and a deplorable main character that would be an almost Shakespearean villain if not for the fact that she’s supposed to be the sympathetic protagonist. Luckily, I’ve not been called upon to review the Twilight graphic novel (yet), and instead I shall be giving my first impressions of THE STRAIN #1.
Based on the novel series by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, and published by Dark Horse, The Strain seeks to use vampires as an allegory for the persistent modern fear of terrorism and biological weapons. The comic itself is a prelude to the upcoming film adaptation of The Strain. So in the meantime between now and when that film comes out, I can enjoy the comic version.
And enjoy it I shall. I bought this issue for one dollar at the suggestion of my local comic book store clerk, not particularly knowing what to expect but willing to give it a go. If publishers want to take a loss on a first issue to get it to me for a dollar, the least I can do is see what the fuss is about. Luckily for me, the fuss what about as exciting as a first issue can be short of beginning with the spectacular end of the universe (not with a bang or whimper but a rockin’ guitar solo); and ending with a cliffhanger on the upcoming fight between Thanos and the Anti-Monitor.
Joking aside, I loved the opening pages of this thing. The comic, which is 22 pages long, covers the charge in the first five or so. It’s just such a chilling opening, and sets up the otherwise modern day adventure with a tale of old European superstition. An old crone tells her grandson of Sardu, the nobleman’s son who went from big friendly giant (due to genetic defect) to folklore monster who steals children away in the night if they don’t eat their Borscht.
The one line at the end of the flashback really gets me: “The Gypsies had a saying, ‘Eat and grow strong, or Sardu will catch you…’ Now eat. Scrape that bowl, Abraham. Or he will come.”
What follows after is a lot of establishing scenes. We get to know the principle characters and their primary conflicts with one another. And we get scenes setting up for a full-blown vampiric epidemic.
While I do think a series has every right to build their vampire lore as they see fit, I personally much prefer the more traditional, monstrous bloodsuckers to the more contemporary, angsty types. And what I see here is a book that sets itself up to use the old world vampires to tackle modern social anxieties. All disease is ancient and terrible, after all, no matter what changes they may experience in the here and now. These plagues were always around, always a threat, but it’s only now that they have the chance to wreak some terrible havoc. I can’t wait to see it unfold.