30 Days of Night
review by Mike Baron

30 Days of Night (Trade Paperback)
Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Ben Templesmith
Publisher: IDW Publishing, $17.99

Whew. Seventeen ninety-nine's quite a bite for a graphic novel, especially since the movie on which it's based will only cost about five bucks. Thirty Days of Night is a horror story about a cabal of vampires who descend on Barrow, Alaska in anticipation of thirty days of uninterrupted feeding. It is a perfect distillation of John Carpenter's The Thing, Assault On Precinct 13, and Vampires. (The painter thanks Carpenter in his notes.) As a concept, it's sophomorically nifty, wringing a few more drops of blood from a tired genre.

Story structure is solid. Eben and Stella Olemaun are a husband/wife police team used to confronting nothing more terrifying than a couple of drunks. When a mysterious stranger busts out of jail looking for blood, the cops get a vibe of what's to come. We know what's coming: a convocation of vampires from around the world, including Mr. Big. Niles' simple, functional plot keeps the reader tripping forward. The dialogue is so-so. There are no memorable lines. There's a peculiar sub-plot concerning a voodoo witch in New Orleans who sends her son to stop the slaughter, but nothing comes of it.

Illustrator Templesmith is a mixed blessing. Working in a painterly Bill Sienkiewicz/Dave McKean style, he can be surprisingly evocative with individuals, their expressions and mannerisms. However, the sea of murk which constitutes the landscape is exactly wrong for this sort of story, which relies on acceptance of reality. Barrow, Alaska has got to be graphically and geographically more interesting than the scratches and black ink that pass for it in this book.

Another problem: this is an action story, but the action is depicted in a murky, impressionistic fashion so that you can never be certain what happened. I understand that Niles and Templesmith were striving for a subjective horror, but that will take place in the reader's mind if you show him the objective reality. For fans of John Carpenter, Dave McKean, and vampires, this might fill the bill.

Mike Baron is the creator of the award winning comic book Nexus and during his career has written an enormous variety of comics from The Flash to The Punisher. His first novel, Witchblade Demons has just been published and he is currently writing the Kiss comic for Dark Horse Comics.

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