REVIEW: Bad Blood #1 (of 5)

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Skulking through shadows, the vampire is swift, strong, merciless, predatory…

And now, one young man has its number.  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

BadBloodCoverBAD BLOOD #1
Writer: Jonathan Maberry
Artist: Tyler Crook
Colorist: Tyler Crook
Letterer: Tyler Crook
Editor: Daniel Chabon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously in Bad Blood: Vampires are mythological or folkloric revenants, who subsist by feeding on the blood of the living.  In folkloric tales, the undead vampires often visited loved ones and caused mischief or deaths in the neighborhoods they inhabited when they were alive.  They wore shrouds and were often described as bloated and of ruddy or dark countenance, markedly different from today’s gaunt, pale vampire which dates from the early 1800s.  Although vampiric entities have been recorded in most cultures, the term “vampire” was not popularised until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe,although local variants were also known by different names, such as “vrykolakas” in Greece and “strigoi” in Romania.  This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to what can only be called mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism.  Given all of that, it’s no wonder that people keep returning to the concept, but what if the vampire didn’t always have the upper hand?

NOT WHAT I EXPECTED…

The first words of this comic?  “Hey, Trick…  You dead yet?”  My first expectation was that our protagonist would then sit up and find that he had been bitten by a vampire and then we’d be off onto yet another Young Adult series with a “Chosen One” protagonist.  Instead, young Trick peers out from under his covers, his face sunken and skeletal, responding that he’s not quite gone yet.  The next few pages are really strong work, first person narration from Trick as he quickly and deftly explains his life, his relationship with best friend Kyle, and showing us their relationship with a relatable (if bleak) sense of humor.  They even have a nice buddy moment as Trick admits that he thinks that, this time, the disease will prevail.  There’s a nice, authentic tone to their interactions and the humor is handled very well alongside Trick’s seeming fatalism.

Then, suddenly, a vampire skulks out from under the bleachers and sinks its horrible fangs into Trick’s throat!

A BELIEVABLE YOUNG VOICE.

There’s a moment in this issue that actually almost made me jump, as the creature throws Trick down and we see its face, not a two-fanged Dracula archetype at all, but a somehow more Eastern looking feline/draconic face full of razor sharp shark-like protrusions.  But when it tastes Trick’s blood, the monster shrieks, fuming and spitting, crying that it burns.  Whether the disease or the treatment is to blame, Trick is now poison to the monster, and it runs away.  (He is, however, left with a pretty impressive neck wound, which can’t be easy given his poor health.)  The creature vows to “tear down his life” for his unimaginable sin of not being delicious, but Trick finds new life, especially as the vamp begins targeting his friends…  The second half of the issue moves pretty quick, covering what seems like a couple of weeks’ worth of time, but maintaining the same tone as the first bit, and Trick’s trial-and-error attempts to figure out how you hunt a vampire are clever and genre-savvy.  The last page, with a pretty goth vampire enthusiast tapping him on the shoulder, takes me by surprise again, making me wonder exactly what the creators have in store for our young protagonist…

THE BOTTOM LINE: AN INTERESTING APPROACH…

This issue reads pretty smooth for me, especially with the subtle, watercolor effect in the coloring.  The art is skirting a line for me, though, with some panels feeling a bit unfinished or sketchy, but overall delivering a solid piece of work, with some lovely characterization and a nicely designed atypical vampire.  Most importantly, for those who lament that there are “too many” stories with arcane protagonists, too many vampires, too many zombies and such?  This issue is written smartly-enough that Trick himself addresses that expectation (and, yes, there is the inevitable joke about sparkling), while never undermining the seriousness of Trick’s predicament.  In short, Bad Blood #1 is an intriguing concept, an ‘elevator pitch’ that seems natural without being obvious, with art and coloring that set it apart from your average horror comic, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  There’s a lot to like here, and I find myself looking forward to the next four issues…