Overview

30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales #4

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30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales #4

Credits

  • Words: Steve Niles & Matt Fraction
  • Art: Kody Chamberlain & Ben Templesmith
  • Inks: N/A
  • Colors: Kody Chamberlain & Ben Templesmith
  • Story Title: Dead Billy Dead & Jaurez or Lex Nova & The Case of 400 Dead Mexican Girls - Part 4
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Jan 26, 2005

The vampire world of 30 Days of Night continues with the ongoing stories of one man becoming a vampire and another of a hard luck town with 400 dead prostitutes.

Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith created an incredibly vivid world of vampires in their series 30 Days of Night. Even with an entire trilogy under their belts, they still come back for more, in this Bloodsucker Tales anthology series. But this time they’ve split up, with the opening storyline seeing Kody Chamberlain team up with Niles and the backup seeing Matt Fraction writing for Templesmith.

Niles and Chamberlain’s story is a simple one of a man becoming a vampire. Billy hasn’t exactly had a good day. He’s been attacked and bitten by a vampire; arrested by, shot at, and escaped from the cops; then when all else failed he went to see his ex-girlfriend, Maggie. This issue starts as he has fled from his Maggie’s place in search of blood to feed his hunger. Meanwhile, Maggie makes a call to an old professor for help, while one of the cops continues to try and figure out if he really did try and arrest a vampire.

It is moot to say that Niles knows how to write this story. This is his world, his creation. His pacing remains succinct; he doesn’t overload the reader with too many characters or goings on, and maintains solid and believable dialogue. Does he lose anything without his usual running partner? No. Chamberlain must have studied under Templesmith because his artwork is an exceptional compliment. He captures the mood and setting in the same manner that Templesmith had in the original trilogy. His vampire is easily differentiated from the normal people and even his stylized artwork seems grounded in the real world.

It is Fraction and Templesmith’s story, however, that may cause some trouble. This one, about the murder of hundreds of women from a small town in Mexico, includes a case of mistaken identity, a crazy private investigator, a priest who has given up faith in God, a family of vampire clowns, and some crazy people who just like to rape and kill. These all sound like good ingredients for a 30 Days of Night vampire story, and they certainly are. So what is the problem? Is it the dialogue? No, Fraction’s dialogue is hysterical, his characters are quirky and it flows incredibly well. Is it the artwork? No. Like Niles in the earlier story, this world also belongs to Templesmith; it was his artwork that designed this world. He has lost nothing in his ability to shock, scare and draw a hell of a vampire.

The problem is two fold. One, there are too many characters. Niles’ story has 4 characters, Fraction’s has over 10. This is probably too many to handle in a backup story. However, it is the second problem that really accentuates that fact: the pacing is too fast. It isn’t the scene transitions. They work really well, moving from character to character. It is the fact that it is all crammed into half a book. Templesmith is given no time to show off. There isn’t one splash (or even half splash) page in this entire portion of the story. The story is told in a classic silver (or even golden) age page breakdown of 8 equal-sized panels, designed in 2 columns of 4. If this backup story were allowed to be fleshed out even slightly, it would be easier to follow issue to issue. Fraction gives no easily identifiable chapter breaks; the end and beginning of each issue feel more like the general scene transitions than a definable cliffhanger ending. He and Templesmith never designate any particular scene or character as actually being important.

Really, this series begs the question: if they wanted to tell both stories, why not just run one complete, and then continue the series with the next one? That would allow Fraction and Templesmith more time to flesh out their characters, create easier breaking points. It might also allow Templesmith to stretch out his muscles a little more. This is not to say that either story is bad, just that the format diminishes from the impact of one of them.

-Sam Moyerman

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