Second vampire comic series starting in the same week, and unlike the last one, these vamps are much more traditional. DAY MEN #1 tells the tale of the secret world of the undead, and the humans sworn since ancient times to carry out their will while the sun is up. One such Day Man is David Reid, a fresh recruit to the Life who has the unfortunate luck of being at the center of yet another vampire war.
A stock framework in vampire fiction is that of vampires unliving in the present day, just below the radar of normal humans. In such settings, the clans of old evolved into pseudo-mafias, with each consortium of the damned carving out and warring over their particular chunk of eternity. But not so often is addressed the matter of how vampiric business is done during the sunlit hours. Usually, you either have some kind of daywalking going on (very rare indeed), or you get the only intelligent resource around to do the business in one’s stead: baseline humans.
Such is the subject of DAY MEN, a comic told from the perspective of those same human agents of vampirism. And if I may, it’s a topic that has the potential to be far more interesting than any story about the vampires themselves.
DAY MEN #1 introduces readers to David Reid, a neophyte Day Man or “Sundog”, who goes about his daily business of serving the interests of his undead masters. He works for the Virgos family, one of fifty mafia-style groups of vampires around the world. Their main rival is the Ramses family, with whom the Virgos share a tentative peace.
So naturally, David gets on the job just in time to watch that peace crumble, descending into another centuries-spanning vampire blood war. And all over an idiot drunkard of a vampire (how to vampires get drunk?), but that’s besides the point.
DAY MEN I think does a lot of things right when it comes to crafting its particular breed of strigoi. While most vampires in fiction have a select few traits consistent across the board – feeding on blood, weakness to sunlight – from there the details vary wildly. Many varieties find their particular set of traits that they want to include, and many fans come to favor some traits over others.
For example, while DAY MEN‘s vampires turn to dust in the sun, giving them their “final death” by other means doesn’t necessarily reduce them to ash on the spot. They die and leave a corpse. Personally I much prefer this to the trend that arose in the nineties with undead that burned up the moment they were staked. It seemed to convenient to me, like a vampire slayer could just deal a fatal blow and not think about the death they just caused two seconds later. My preference is to have vampire corpses. It leaves evidence, and the body itself could hold dangers even while deceased.
There’s a reason the Dracula films got so much mileage out of bringing their titular villain back to life again and again.
I think the advantage of putting the perspective in the hands of the humans around the vampires is that the vampires are allowed to remain mysterious. They are so much more powerful to readers when seen through the eyes of a baseline human. Which is not to say they are invincible. David himself kills two vampires while another vampire on his side was killed. But it was no easy feat, requiring skill and timing. He’s aided by his two gifts: a cane as a primary weapon, which is more effective than you’d think at dispatching undead; and training by a mysterious teacher in combat who apparently hasn’t taken other new students in a long while. This leaves readers to consider that David Reid might have more up his sleeve than he lets on.
Driving themes presented in DAY MEN #1 include loyalty to one’s family and youth. Specifically in the latter case with David being presented as a child. Relative to his masters, this is indeed true, though he doesn’t strike me as a particularly inexperienced or even physically young man. He looks thirty at least – not helped by his lock of white hair – and he fights like a combat expert. He even seriously comments how, in a fight with two ex-special forces men, he could kill them. Granted he’d be injured to hell, but he could barely do it. Yet we’re given dialogue and narration that present him as a child. Which either means there’s serious dissonance going on, or there’s much more we haven’t seen about what David doesn’t know concerning the vampire world.
The artwork is fantastic, although not all the vampires really look like vampires. Then again, the ones that look “human” were hot women, so maybe this was a deliberate choice with less-than-honest motives. Characters are heavily differentiated visually, and the panels are dynamic when they need to be. They’re very well staged panels as well, with an eye for cinematography. Shadows are used well, though a lot of the night shots look suspiciously like day-for-night. I didn’t even think that was possible with a comic.
Maybe it’s just that I recently got done reading another mafia themed comic, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo, but I really got a kick out of the organized crime motif DAY MEN presents. That the whole of the undead world is divided into turfs controlled by decadent immortals loyal only to themselves. That the only law among the dead is a rule of blood paid for blood.
If you like either vampire fiction or crime dramas, you’ll enjoy DAY MEN #1. Recommended.