First Impressions – THE STRAIN: THE FALL #1

The Strain: The Fall #1 (2013) Cover

The vampires have virtually taken Manhattan, and if their Master’s will be done, they’ll overrun the entire world! The story of undead plagues and ancient intrigue continues in THE STRAIN: THE FALL #1. How are Ephraim Goodweather and his party recovering from their failed attempt to assassinate The Master? What secrets does the Occido Lumen hold? For what cause did Eldritch Palmer sell out the human race? And does there yet exist a part of young Zack’s mother that is capable of loving her child? Or is the newly turned woman a full-on monster with nothing but blood-lust in her heart?

This marks part two of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s horror trilogy!

A year and a half ago, during the genesis of this site, I began writing about The Strain, an adaptation of the horror novel of the same name by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. It told of a plague unlike any that had been seen since the original I Am Legend: a plague of vampires. Crossing the outbreak genre with the bloodsucking undead was an inspired choice, and over a year’s time I saw The Strain brought to vivid/dark color right before my eyes.

The Strain comic ended with its cast – a mixture of disease control agents, an exterminator, a gang member (who remained largely separate from the rest), and a Holocaust survivor turned vampire hunter – take force against The Master, an ancient vampire lord with a desire to cover the world with his particular vampiric strain. Unfortunately for our heroes and the human race, the Master proved stronger than they thought, and he escaped. With the ringleader absconded and the whole of humanity kept ignorant of their looming doom, it looked like curtains for everyone. Everyone truly alive that is.

And the apocalypse hasn’t even really started yet.

After a six month break in publication, THE STRAIN: THE FALL #1 picks up where the previous series left off: with Ephraim Goodweather and crew lamenting the sad, sad state of affairs they’re in. But before even that, readers are treated to a history lesson concerning the creation and journey of the Occido Lumen. A tome writ by a rabbi of rare skill and translated from ancient tablets, the Occido Lumen supposedly documents the vampire and how to fight them. Unable to touch the silver-bound text, the strigoi of history were content to let it drift from owner to owner throughout the years, causing unfortunate accidents before their true worth could be exploited. And so the tome disappeared from view…until it recently went up for auction for twenty five million dollars.

Naturally, both the Master and aged vampire slayer Abraham Setrakian want it in their possession. It’s too bad our heroes don’t have the money, and their enemies most certainly do. Assuming they don’t merely seize the object in secret.

Having so spectacularly failed at what would probably be their only known opportunity to kill their hated enemy, our heroes retired to an apartment to hide and sulk. Vasiliy Fet the exterminator remains ready to do whatever he can to hinder the Master, but Ephraim Goodweather fell back to drink after his struggle for sobriety. He doesn’t know what, if anything, they can do to salvage their situation, and whether there’s any point in trying.

His son Zack is possessed of bigger problems: his mother has returned…as a fiendish strigoi! It’s not made clear in this issue whether or not his mother recognizes Zack, but she’s quickly driven away regardless. Driven away to prey upon other unsuspecting survivors.

Augustin Elizalde, Mexican gang member freed from juvenile hall just in time to step into the End Times, is nowhere to be seen. Readers will have to wait for news on him.

And finally, Eldritch Palmer, the elderly billionaire who set up the Master’s uprising, meets with one of said Master’s flunkies, a vampire named Eichhorst. It’s implied he’s a Nazi or a former Nazi, which isn’t surprising given their history with the Master. The two discuss the terms of their agreement, as well as set up for yet more tension for the issues to come.

It’s almost not worth saying that fans of The Stand will enjoy THE STAND: THE FALL #1. It’s like saying people who saw Star Wars: A New Hope should watch The Empire Strikes Back. Everything that was good about the previous series remains so here. The art of Mike Huddleston is dark and moody. The characters are well-crafted and interesting. The vampires are grotesque and different from practically every other incarnation in fiction. And a sense of dread hangs like a heavy fog over the whole affair. The sole place where this issue falters is more a product of overall story structure than anything else. The situation seems hopeless and the characters are deficient in personal agency because of it. Readers coming into the franchise at this point might be turned off by the pall of despair the book evokes at the start.

But then again, the entire first series is collected and available in trade format, so readers really shouldn’t be starting here.

It’s worth noting that I am severely biased towards this work, having awaited the sequel for months. Yet may it sound as a recommendation when I say I was not disappointed by THE STRAIN: THE FALL #1. My expectations were met. I will continue reading this series.

Now if only it didn’t have such an inelegant name.

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