30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales #1-3

Written by Steve Niles and Matt Fraction
Art by Kody Chamberlain and Ben Templesmith
32 pages, color
Published by IDW Publishing

Arguably the highest-profile book published by IDW has been 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, which along with its sequels (Dark Days and 30 Days of Night: Return to Barrow) has been determined to bring good old-fashioned terror back into comics. The latest title from Niles and Templesmith is the new anthology title 30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales but unlike the other books there’s a slight twist; Niles and Templesmith are each working with a different creator to put together the two serials in Bloodsucker Tales.

Niles teams up with artist Kody Chamberlain to create “Dead Billy Dead”, the story of a man unfortunate enough to get transformed into a vampire even as he struggles against his shift into a creature of the night. Reading the first three installments, it’s in many ways a very standard vampire story, as an innocent finds himself becoming something less than desirable. What helps set it apart a bit is that in the 30 Days of Night universe, one of the characters from the first mini-series had written a book about her experiences, and that documentation of knowledge is floating around for other characters to pick up and use—in this case, one of the police officers that first encountered Billy after his transformation. It’s a nice little twist in what would otherwise be a pretty normal, if still well-written story. Adding to Niles’s story is Chamberlain’s art, which does a nice job of maintaining a lot of the look and feel that Templesmith established while being its own unique individual. Like Templesmith, Chamberlain uses deep, beautiful colors to illustrate “Dead Billy Dead”, ones that make the art almost pop off of the page at the reader. Chamberlain’s pencil and ink art has a bit more of a standard composition than Templesmith’s computer-manipulated drawings, though, making the art recognizably his. Chamberlain’s quite good with drawing people; the illustration of the police waiting in the alleyway for Billy, for instance, or Billy’s attack on the vampire that changed him both come across as extremely realistic. In terms of new artists to work in the world of 30 Days of Night, Chamberlain is a very solid addition.

Templesmith’s partner for Bloodsucker Tales is Matt Fraction, who writes “Juarez or Lex Nova & The Case of the 400 Dead Mexican Girls”. Fraction’s story here is a wonderful combination of grim horror and tongue-in-cheek craziness, and while the two don’t sound like they’d work well together, they do. Lex Nova is a fantastic protagonist, a self-proclaimed private detective whose internal hard-boiled-gumshoe monologues are spoken out loud (to the disconcertation of those around him) and who has a certain way with words, one that makes you cringe and laugh at the same time. Fraction’s work on books like Last of the Independents and The Annotated Mantooth has shown that he’s got an amazing skill for dialogue, and that’s very much on display here. At the same time, Fraction’s able to make the Zero Gang of vampires suitably discomforting as they show up with their clown noses and take control of the killings in Juarez. This is much grimmer and nastier than anything else I’ve seen from Fraction to date, and he handles it with ease. Templesmith really brings Fraction’s scripts to life with his computer-scrawled art, with its rich backgrounds surrounding shady looking characters. With a lighter script Templesmith’s art might come across as whimsical or goofy, but when it comes to drawing horror it’s amazing how creepy his style looks. Echo Zero is the sort of character that could look cute and funny, but instead there’s a real menace in his eyes as he stalks onto the page, by way of example. Fraction’s script is lighter than anything else I’ve seen him illustrate, but he handles it with great ease. All in all, another great matching of talents.

If that wasn’t enough, each issue of 30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales contains a bonus prose short story. Christopher E. Long’s “Tribe” take on the vampires during the days of the wild frontier is an interesting one that uses its format of a journal interesting, although the story ittself is slightly unengaging. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s “Fight” is a great little adventure involving internet blind-dates, father-son relationships, and seedy bars that manages to perfectly fit into the atmosphere and tone of 30 Days of Night while still maintaining its own style. Erik Warfield’s “Problems Faced When Traveling” is the only one that didn’t really work for me, seeming a little too average and trying too hard as it tells a tale of vampires going for a grocery store run (so to speak) in a hospital and where it leads them.

30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales is a really fun anthology; Niles and Templesmith have made sure that their collaborators are just the right people for the job. While I’m not always a fan of bringing new creators into something that was a vision of a singular creative team, Bloodsucker Tales has proven that it can work admirably so long as you find the right creators.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

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