Blood Stream #1

Written by Adam Shaw and Penny Register
Art by Adam Shaw
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

Pacing is an important aspect of comics. It’s true of almost every creative medium, of course, but for some reason comics are where I see it the most-abused these days. In this day and age, more and more people seem to be envisioning their comic as eventually seeing life as a single volume, and that’s great. Just don’t lose track of the readers who are reading it in its original serialized method of delivery.

Amber O’Neill is a topless dancer in Maryland whose life is about to go from bad to worse. Lured by the promise of working a high-paying private party, she’s instead kidnapped by a mysterious group of scientists that begin to perform experiments on her comatose body. But what exactly do they have mind for her?

Reading the first issue of Blood Stream, it’s amazing how very little actually happens. The big problem is that this is a pace that might not be so bad as part of a greater whole, but as an individual comic it positively plods. Devoting half of your first issue to scientists talking to each other while the main character dreams, well, is hardly conducive to keeping a reader’s interest. If you want to eventually show all of this, that’s fine, but you’ve either got to have a longer first issue so there’s enough to keep the reader’s attention, or perhaps keep some of the backstory for a later issue. It’s hard to even judge if there’s any potential for interest down the line, because we’re given so very little to work with. No hook, no “hmm, that’s clever” sort of moment… nothing. The most jarring part of it all, though? The first issue doesn’t even show the pretense of trying to find any sort of a chapter or section ending that will want to keep readers around. It just stops so suddenly (with a tiny “to be continued” at the bottom of the page) that it wasn’t until I started flipping through advertisements that I understood that the first issue was over.

Adam Shaw’s art is fortunately a little better than his writing. It reminds me a little bit of some early works by Scott Hampton (the original Books of Magic and Lucifer mini-series), with people being defined by almost smears of paint rather than going for the overdone “photograph” look of painting that’s so popular these days. It’s a nice look for the book, and I wish Shaw had picked something a little more exciting to paint so we could really see his art kick into gear. Instead we’re getting perfectly serviceable paintings of guys with glasses and suits sitting in limousines.

It’s ultimately the art that makes me want to see a second issue. The cover to the first issue of Blood Stream has Amber clutching a pair of guns, which makes me think that sooner or later some action sequences are coming our way. I’d like to see what he does with that, but right now the story itself is so slow that Blood Stream could be prescribed as a sleep aid. I’m not asking for gigantic cliffhangers at the end of every issue and cars exploding every other page, here. But I would like to see some sort of payoff on an issue-by-issue basis if that’s how Shaw and Penny Register are going to release the comic. Right now, that’s just not happening.

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