Monday, January 08, 2007

30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night
Well, I promised that I was going to get around to reading this, and I just finished everything up until the current series. I'll go through the series one by one.

30 Days of Night - Wizard Prologue
The major fault here is that this doesn't stand on its own. It can't. Then again, these things rarely do. But for its eight pages, it gives us a chance to become semi familiar with Ben Templesmith's art style, and also warns us that we'll need a magnifying glass to read the vampires' dialogue. Taken together with the rest of the series, it's VERY GOOD, but if I were forced to give it an independent rating, I could only go as high as OKAY.

30 Days of Night #1-#3
This series was GOOD. It took me quite a while to get used to Ben Templesmith's art, and to tell the truth, it took longer than this series. In fact, it seemed that even he didn't come into his own on this series until the next set of books. The third issue in and of itself was EXCELLENT, though, with a very fitting climax, which serves to cement the mythos surrounding Steve Niles' version of vampirism. He views it as something akin to a disease which can be spread through exposure to the saliva or blood of one who's already infected. His vampires burn in the sun, but short of that, nothing less than decapitation will kill them for good. They're certainly tough bastards. He has them sporting claws and a full mouth of razor-sharp teeth, and huge four-foot-long prehensile tongues, which can curl and snake. My major complaint about the art is that every close up of anybody's mouth, even the humans, looks vampiric. Unless that's just Ben Templesmith trying to say that the fundamental difference between humans and vamps is their morals. But I think he just likes drawing people with poor dental hygiene. Also, he draws scenes so dark and sketchy, that at times it's extremely difficult to figure out what's going on. Not Bachalo difficult. Just harder than it should be. Also, he tends to take shortcuts in his art, but which I mean that instead of illustrating something so that we'll know exactly what he's trying to convey, he makes a sort of collage with [words in brackets] to describe what he can't figure out how to convey graphically. It's interesting, but it's still cheating.

30 Days of Night - Dark Days #1-#6
This series is much better. The main plot of this one is that Stella, the Sheriff's wife, has written a book about the attack on Barrow, entitled, you guessed it, "30 Days of Night", and is in L.A. doing publicity for it. The publicity is more for the sake of informing others about the vampire threat so that they can defend themselves against the hitherto unbelievable. She has surrounded herself with mercenaries, and developed specialized weaponry for fighting vampires. It's VERY GOOD, and herein Templesmith shows that he's settled into his groove. Either that, or I just finally figured out how to interpret his art. Probably a bit of both.

30 Days of Night Annual 2004

A collection of short stories by Steve Niles set in the universe that he has created. Read this before the next miniseries, as it contains the introduction to a very central character in that series. It also ties up two loose ends from the previous series. Everything a good annual should be, and not at all what you'd expect from an annual. I know that that may sound cryptic, and so be it. Titlewise ratings, by story: 1) The Book Club - EH. It's completely useless. It doesn't contribute whatsoever to the general mythology of the world Niles has created, except to tell us that Stella published those sections that were removed from her book by the publisher on her website. It's not incompetent storytelling, it's just pointless. It's actually reminiscent of the old Twilight Zone episode "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street". 2) The Hand that Feeds - GOOD. The art by Szymon Kudranski is competent. This is the first story to tie up a loose end from the last series. 3) Agent Norris: MIA - OKAY. This story's art by Brandon Hovet, Bill Williams, and Tom B. Long is extremely out of character for this series. It's almost cartoonish. And waaay too bright. This is the second story tying up loose ends. 4) The Trapper - VERY GOOD. This one has art by Josh Medors which reminds me simultaneously of the illustrations of Arthur Szyk and the covers for those old Isaac Bashevis Singer books. I can't really explain why. Very European. It's quite lovely. It introduces a main character from, and segues into the next series.

30 Days of Night - Return to Barrow #1-#6
A few years later, the vampires decide to mount another attack on Barrow, this time wiping out any and all survivors. But since the first attack, the survivors have prepared themselves, learning the mythology of their adversary, amassing weapons, fencing in what remains of the town, setting up generators at multiple points, and installing UV lights at the periphery of their compound. They believe they'll be prepared. So do you...until the vampires start shooting! EXCELLENT series, with the best ending of any of the books. These issues all contain short prose pieces in the back, which I haven't read, so will not be reviewing just yet.

30 Days of Night - Picking Up the Pieces from IDW's Tales of Terror vol. 1
This story serves as an epilogue to Return to Barrow, and also as a prologue to the 2005 Annual.
It's a VERY GOOD short story (10 pages), but Templesmith cheats a lot.

30 Days of Night - Bloodsucker Tales #1-#8
Alright now, this one is a bit of a mixed bag. Each issue has three stories in it, two graphic and one prose. The prose stories are of varying quality. Mostly they're okay, a couple are good or very good, but there's one which quite obviously doesn't fit anywhere into the Niles mythology. It's just a random story about a vampire. And as such, it has no business being in a 30 Days of Night book. The story itself is good, but its inclusion is quite puzzling. Prose is prose, and some of you may not even bother reading words with no pictures, but as a whole they're worth reading. I'm not going to rate them in this column though. Maybe some other time.
The graphical stories are 1) Dead Billy Dead, written by Niles and illustrated quite excellently by Kody Chamberlain. This story, about a young man who gets turned but manages to keep his thirst under control, is VERY GOOD. 2) The second story, Juarez or Lex Nova & The Case of the 400 Dead Mexican Girls, by Matt Fraction with art by Templesmith, is not. It's hard to follow, and even upon the conclusion I had very little idea of what it had been about. The art is not clear either. In fact, this is Templesmith's shoddiest work throughout the entirety of this series. This one's CRAP.

30 Days of Night Annual 2005

This one directly follows the short story from Tales of Terror mentioned above. It's a GOOD story, but it includes a very unfortunate fate for the hero of an earlier story, and what is decidedly a non-ending. The art, this time provided by Nat Jones, is competent, but is not what we've come to expect. And, for the first time ever, the lettering is sloppy. Words are misspelled, words are left out. It's annoying, especially since it was perfect until now. And for the first time, stakes are used, whereas shotgun shells would be MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE.

30 Days of Night - Dead Space #1-#3
Okay, now I really don't understand what could have possessed Steve Niles to write this total piece of excrement. It's really, really, bad. The main premise is that on the night before a shuttle launch, the mission captain hooks up with a vampire prostitute. Even though he's married. It takes him half a day to turn, and he proceeds with the launch even though he's aware that he's turning. And AASA (NASA?) lets the launch proceed even though his vitals are substandard. So, just after launch, he vamps out and turns or kills the entire crew, resulting in the shuttle's exploding. So AASA (read ass-a), sends another crew up, fearing vampires, and they find the captain's floating unprotected in space, with no damage. They take him on board the international space station, where they get sent because AASA doesn't want them bringing the body back to Earth. And he wakes up on the autopsy table and kills or turns everybody on the space station. And then the lone survivor is headed back to Earth with a vampire riding his escape capsule like Slim Pickins on the bomb.
Problems: A space shuttle launch is ALWAYS preceded by the total quarantine of all flight members for at least 24 hours before launch.
Vampires wouldn't do very well in space, as they'd be subjected to more sun then they'd ever get on the planet.
Vampires would still depressurize in a vacuum.
An acetylene torch lit inside a space shuttle would cause the pressurized Oxygen inside to combust. And what use would it really be against vampires anyways? Use something heavy!
A vampire would burn to a crisp upon reentry into the atmosphere.
And those are just the glaring errors.
This series was cowritten with Dan Wickline, and you've got to assume that as it's completely different in tone and quality from ANYTHING else in this series, that he's the guy responsible for this CRAP. The art is done by MILX - whatever that is - and it's just completely wrong for this series. And there are problems, once again, with the lettering. Completely ASS - for trying to sell a bullshit storyline under the 30 Days of Night title.

Overall, this series is very high quality. I'm looking forward to reading the current miniseries.

No comments: