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30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales Vol. 1
Review by Christopher J. Shelton

30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales Vol. 1

Steve Niles and Matt Fraction
Kody Chamberlain and
Ben Templesmith
Robbie Robins and
Tom B. Long

IDW Publishing
Softcover Collection
Publish Date
August 31, 2005
Cover Price
Well, I never read the original 30 Days of Night, but after reading Bloodsucker Tales Vol. 1, I wish I would’ve started with the original miniseries.

"Dead Billy Dead," story one of the anthology, starts out referencing a part of 30 Days of Night, and Niles could’ve done right by readers by somehow giving them some background from the original series. Too much background, however, can bog down a story, and writers who can get the background in without slowing things down are a special breed. I get the picture that Niles thinks his story is a tale about vampires and that it doesn’t need any background. That might’ve worked for me if the original miniseries hadn’t been referenced.

The dialogue also didn’t work for me. It moved along at a fast clip but almost too fast. I did like the times when Billy—the main character—was thinking too himself. One of these instances led off the story. Billy thinks about when “some jackass” had told him about how people’s lives flash before their eyes when they die. He says at one point how he “didn’t get no cranial slideshow.” Now that’s cool writing. Unfortunately, cool writing didn’t, for the most part, make the leap to the word balloons. In a couple instances the word balloons seemed to show up in the wrong panels. In one panel—one cop asks a question of his partner—and both are far away from their squad car. In the very next panel—both are inside their squad car—and the other officer answers the question. In another panel example, Billy is talking to his girlfriend and has his head on her lap. A couple of panels later she is suddenly talking to him from across the room. Even though these examples were slightly distracting to me when I was reading the story, they weren’t bad offenses.

The pacing of the story also distracted me. It—like so many other comics out there today—uses a decompression style. There isn’t much decompression involved, but the parts that follow a different style, unfortunately are too choppy. Decompression isn’t bad, but you’ve got to do it right, and Niles didn’t do it right when he wrote this tale.

Niles did do a good job with a couple of the characters. Billy, who has to deal with becoming a vampire, and Maggie, his ex-girlfriend, who has to help him deal with becoming a vampire, are both pretty well-written. I cared about what happened to them. Other characters that aren’t as well-written are a cop that wants to help Billy and a professor that wants to exploit Billy. I just couldn’t see a beat cop, who is shown to have read 30 Days of Night (what the cover isn’t advertising enough?) being interested in helping Billy. The professor—shock of all shocks—is shown to be whacked out-of-his-gourd. He helps bring the story to a climax, but you don’t feel any real tension.

I never felt any tension from the second tale of the anthology, "Juarez" or "Lex Nova and the Case of the 400 Dead Mexican Girls" (which is based on a real-life news story). I thought the story, written by Matt Fraction, could’ve come from the demented mind of the whacked out professor from the first story. Fraction speeds his story along at warp nine, which wouldn’t have been bad had it been a little more entertaining than crazy. The story reminded me a little of the movie Natural Born Killers, where there are hodgepodge scenes thrown at viewers, leaving them feeling like they’re on an acid trip.

The main character—who’s a trip himself—is private detective Lex Nova. Lex comes across as a Quentin Tarantino-like character. He comes to Juarez to investigate the reported 400 Dead Mexican girls and he also attempts to get a family’s missing daughter back. Fraction has Nova speaking his thoughts occasionally throughout the story—something you’d might expect out of a Tarantino character. The trait fits this character and adds a little humor to the story. Nova’s main nemesis in the story is a vampire clown named Bingo. They don’t really go head-to-head till issue five of the anthology, and by that time I didn’t really care whether Nova killed Bingo or vice a versa. I also didn’t care about a couple of revelations made about Nova near the end.

I did care about the art. I thought good efforts were put in by both artists in the collection. Kody Chamberlain’s artistic style reminded me of Jae Lee’s style. I’d have to give the nod to Chamberlain’s art over Ben Templesmith’s art. Templesmith who does the art in the second story of the anthology takes more chances, but in the end his art was more a distraction than anything else. Chamberlain had several splash pages in the collection—some better than others—while Templesmith had no splash pages at all, and I would’ve liked to have seen some from him.

My favorite art moment was the two-page nine-panel scene where the whacked-out professor cuts open vampire Billy’s chest with a butcher knife while the kid is awake and tied to an operating table. I don’t know if I found it funny (because of how it’s depicted) or if I found it scary, but the art here on these two pages is great.

My least favorite art moment was the background in some of the shots in the second story of the anthology. Little dots are in the background. It’s probably an artistic style of some sort, but it just reminded me of pixels on an old television set, and I found it distracting.

Bonus Features
30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales features a fancy embossed cover by artist Ben Templesmith and Kody Chamberlain. Private detective Lex Nova is pictured on the front cover, and vampire Billy is shown on Lex’s sunglass lenses. Other than the nice cover—which IDW continues to excel at with their collections—the only extra inside is a cover gallery from the anthology.
Final Words

I like vampire tales. I dig Anne Rice and her stories. Author Scott Ciencin crafted a great story about vampires in Los Angeles called "The Wildlings." 30 Days of Night the original miniseries might be the best thing since sliced bread, but Bloodsucker Tales—an ongoing anthology series—did not start off with a bang in this first volume. If 30 Days of Night is going to keep its good name then Niles or someone is going to have to step up and deliver some better material in Bloodsucker Tales. I will throw out some props for the art of Kody Chamberlain and Ben Templesmith. It balanced out the weaknesses that the writing showed. I thought the 189-page, eight part book was a quick read—too quick of a read—and at $24.99 the collection is a little too pricey for what I read and makes me wish, once again, that I had started with the original miniseries.

Borrow It

Once nicknamed Richie Rich, Christopher Shelton (email) nowadays wishes he had gotten Richie’s money, instead of the nickname, so he could support his comic buying habit. Born under the Year of the Monkey, his favorite B—list comic book characters include Iron Fist, Paladin, and the Human Fly. Christopher has worked as a movie extra in Spider-Man and Renaissance Man. He’s been a radio disc jockey who has spun tunes in the alternative format among others. He’s also tackled the production side of radio, working in sports talk and in news talk. He’s currently climbing the copyediting/writing ladder in San Diego.
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