Thursday, February 9, 2012

30 Days of Night Omnibus (comics)

Writer: Steve Niles
Artist: Ben Templesmith
Collects: 30 Days of Night, 30 Days of Night: Dark Days, 30 Days of Night: Return to Barrow

Some comics have such great ideas; some of those ideas you end up kicking yourself for having never thought of. The high concept of this book relies on the fact that during the winter, Alaska has a solid thirty days straight of night; some vampires get wind of it, think "holy shit, I need to get some of that action" and it's off to the races. The town is quickly turned into an all-you-can-eat buffet for all participating vampires.

This omnibus edition collects the first three miniseries of this franchise. The initial story is the original tale of Barrow, Alaska and its thirty days of hell. The second is a direct sequel, showing the spiral of the heroine of last volume as she desperately tries to prove to the outside world that vampires are totally a real thing. The final brings us back to Barrow, where the remaining residents have learned to fight; see, the vampires aren't very happy about the fact that there are survivors that know of their existence, so during those thirty days they wage war on the now fortified Barrow.

There are further stories past this, but if you wanted to stop here with this omnibus edition, you could. The three stories collected generally wrap up the core stories of Barrow and our protagonists from the first story by the end of the third. We're left in a pretty good place to stop, but should we choose to continue partaking in this world there is the option.

Writer Steve Niles does a fine job of making vampires the horrific creatures we know they can be. A lot of people blame the Twilight novels for de-fanging the vampire concept, but while those asstastic novels didn't do the vampire any favors as a concept, the sterilization had started way before that. I love the suave, manipulative, charming take on the vampire as much as anyone, but somewhere along the way we lost a counterpart. Being a vampire was essentially shown to be cool and rarely terrible; much of the bite or terror of the concept was lost as a result of years of this dilution.

Niles gives us two sides of the coin. On the one hand, they are very much the monsters of your nightmares in this world. Once turned, most of them lose their humanity and get right to the whole feasting thing. Hell, once a group catches wind of Barrow and its lengthy night, they roll in like a bulldozer and lay waste to the entire town. In contrast, there are also the vampires who are more sophisticated; they're still very monstrous - the main case in the first story, even if he's pissed about the whole situation, orders any survivors to be killed and the town to be burnt to the ground so not a hint of their existence is left - but they're far from idiots.

What we're left with is a series that strikes a fine balance, bringing some semblance of terror to a monster that hasn't been all that scary for a while.

The art, then, is rather unfortunate. I'm of two minds on Ben Templesmiths art. On the one hand, it conveys the twisted, horrific nature of the story fairly well and he does improve as time goes on. But on the other, sometimes the art is unclear and confusing. The art style also has its merits but I don't care for it much. Hit or miss, overall; I think the art brings down what's otherwise a great trilogy of horror comics.

The Score: 7.5 out of 10

I dock some points for the art, but otherwise this is a very strong comic series. It could probably have been a classic. Hard to tell. As it is it's very good, but the art drags it down a few notches. Hopefully there will be a second omnibus; I'll likely pick it up, as I'm down for more of this world, as long as it continues to be a sharp read.


  1. I found the subplot with the psychic woman to be oddly out of place in the story, but other than that, I enjoyed it. I don't think a lot of people dug the movie too much, but I liked it more than the book -- not only does it leave out the psychic, but I think you get a better feeling for the titular passing of time than you do in the comic (which maybe could have been an issue longer). I'd be interested to see where Niles goes with the story in the first two sequel miniseries collected here; I don't think Templesmith takes part in some of the later series, so that might be something for you to look forward to.

  2. I've seen the movie adaption and yeah, it definitely had it's strengths. It kind of cut some elements that weren't necessary, as I recall, and focused chiefly on the town trying to survive against the ridiculously stacked odds against them. It was pretty good at applying tension.

    I'll look forward to having someone else doing the art later on. Templesmiths art just isn't for me. Sometimes I think it ends up obscuring things and makes it difficult to suss out some panels.