Written by Dave Lapham (script), Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (story)
Art by Mike Huddleston
A vampiric plague may threaten the world. Symptoms do NOT include sparkling, raging fangirls or horrible writing.
To preface, I haven’t read the original Strain books by Del Toro and Hogan. This comic is my first experience with the franchise.
The issue begins with an old Jewish woman in 1927 telling her grandson about a kind giant noble in a local village involved in a hunting accident which turns him into a monster kidnapping children. The perfect tale to scare kids into being good to avoid this boogieman. Cut to today, our star Center of Disease Control agent Ephraim is pulled away from family quality time to investigate a plane landing that’s sealed up and curtained, hiding its passengers mysteriously dead… and a coffin of course.
This issue is all set up, but it’s still interesting. The opening bedtime story of the giant feels like an original and fresh urban legend, and even the giant in this story-within-a-story is sympathetic enough for the reader to follow. The actual main character Ephraim is fully developed in these few pages as a caring father with a troubled marriage and more troubled divorce, yet who is pulled between his family and his CDC work with a bit of a hero complex. It’s a bit clichéd, but what horror story isn’t?
Nothing is revealed about the vampires or how they work in this world. You don’t even see them beyond the cover. The title implies a pathogenic origin, but the urban legend in the beginning by its very nature adds credence to a darker supernatural aspect. The book is smart in not playing its hand too early. A good suspense is building for its eventual vampiric antagonists, and readers will be driven to the following issue to see what happens next.
The artwork sets the theme of this grotesque horror story. Coloring is dark, and what bright colors there are appear somewhat muted. The shading is often strong, giving that hidden-by-the-shadows affect. The characters and the backgrounds are well detailed. Overall, it’s a well drawn book.
From only the cover, the vampire designs in this are a nice change of pace from the generic pointy fanged variety we’re used to (thankfully not in a sparkling way). Their tongues pointed and barbed on one side, as if for a puncturing weapon, and their length gives Venom and Gene Simmons a run for their money. These vampires stick out their tongues so far, the stomach they’re attached to come with out too, making for creepy a visual of a guy breathing into his own stomach like a brown paper bag. Add their baldness and pale complexion, and dark red eyes, and these aren’t the type teen girls will poster their room with.
This definitely feels like a Del Toro movie works, even with the issue writing not by himself. The darker and fleshed out plot feels like some of his works, and the vampires have a passing resemblance to Del Toro’s Blade II. If you’re looking for a good suspense horror tale, The Strain is off to a good start.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10