Being a new reader to both these titles, and never having seen the 30 Days of Night movie, I was going into this somewhat blind. I say somewhat because I am familiar with Steve Niles as a writer from his work on Spawn (it was one of the few times I have read that title in a number of years). As a result of that and a number of recommendations from others, I picked up this book and am glad I did.
Although I’ve never read a single issue of either series, as I am never sure when is a good time to join a book (the non-Marvel and non-DC books rarely say “New Arc! Great Jumping On Point!” on the cover, and it’s even rarer for a horror story to do so), but this story is accessible to a brand new reader. You get a quick and dirty intro to both series on the inside of the cover, and it’s such a simple summary that you really don’t need more. You are told who the characters are, you are told what they are about as the story opens, and that’s really all you need. (Although, I really do want to read the older issues now… It’s time to hunt down some trades!)
Our story opens with the “hero” from Criminal Macabre, Cal McDonald, arriving at a bar a tad beaten up. As someone who drowns his pain in alcohol, he is on fine form, asking for drink after drink while he recovers from said beating. While at the bar he meets a woman… who is a federal agent named Alice Blood. Alice asks Cal if he has ever heard of Barrow, Alaska – the setting for 30 Days of Night – and shows him pictures of the massacre that occurred there.
Meanwhile, Cal’s assistant/partner/ghoul friend, Mo’Lock, answers a call intended for McDonald. Other ghouls in the area attempt to keep Mo’Lock from the atrocity that occurred, which is a friend/interest for the ghoul. (I honestly do not know the relationship there being a new reader, but by the reaction given it’s more than just friends.) It turns out that the ghouls stand between the rest of the undead and the monsters to help humanity, but someone knows how to kill them it seems. And that makes them a tad uneasy. But what could do that?
Yup, a vampire.
Cal and Alice are mulling over an attack on FBI headquarters when Alice reveals that it was the work of a vampire. In fact, it could only have been the vampire from Alaska – Eben Olemaun. Eben was kept in check by his wife, Stella, a vampire who managed to keep some of her humanity intact after her change. After she was killed – by Alice, no less – Eben had no reason to hold back on attacking humanity. So he came to Los Angeles, and it was on his order that the wraith was killed. Mo’Lock is taking out his frustration on the vamp, trying to find out what’s going on, when Cal and Alice show up. Cal orders the vamp released to deliver a message to Eben: Cal McDonald is coming for him.
Like I said, I’m a new reader but I still got drawn into this book. This is the challenge with a comic that has history that you’ve never read before – if you can capture the attention of someone who has no foundation in the background, you’ve done a great job. And Steve Niles has done that here. The story flowed smoothly, the characters felt… real (I was hesitant to say that because some are, after all, undead), but if you can feel emotion and sadness for a ghoul they must have done something right.
The visuals by artist Christopher Mitten and colorist Michelle Madsen were definitely suited to this book. When outside in the streets, we see a number of darker tones showcasing the night in Los Angeles. Insides are lit with yellows and oranges which gives the impression of heated interiors vs. a cold exterior. The ghouls are where it really comes into play with the artwork though – you can tell they are undead. They are non-symmetrical in their appearance (it looks like bits of the faces are contorted) and the glowing red eyes don’t hurt. Mitten and Madsen together make this a wonderful book to look at which helps immensely for this medium. Even if the story hooked me, if I couldn’t stand the artwork (and there have been books that have had this happen) it actually makes the book unreadable. This is not one of those books.
For a new reader I was hesitant, but I am glad I listened to the recommendations. This was a great read. My only complaint is that I now have to find all the previous trades for the backstories and have to wait until issue #2 comes out. But if that’s my only complaint, it’s a good one to have.