From the imaginative mind that brought you the popular cult favorites Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade 2 and the Hellboy movies, comes filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro’s comic adaptation of his and novelist Chuck Hogan’s best-selling novel trilogy The Strain. Like the novels, the Dark Horse comic series charts a vampire-virus epidemic in New York and the nightmarish reality the last remaining humans are forced to deal with. Before issue #5 hits stores, here’s a recap of the series thus far.
Jumping right into things, The Strain #1 and #2 are comics that truly deliver all the horror goodness. From the get-go, you are drawn into a national emergency at the JFK airport. A plane has landed and it appears that all its passengers (except for three) are dead. Obviously there is something troubling afoot and you, the reader is taken along for the ride. Issue #1 we are introduced to the key characters of this series. Ephraim, the series mainstay and head of a team that specializes in investigating biological threats and the Holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian are among the series regulars who will find their lives turned upside down by what’s to come. But for now, it is the calm before the storm. Truly, where these issues succeed is through laying out the groundwork of what’s to come. The Strain already looks to be a superb series, so for the set up to span two issues is otherwise forgivable.
Things really pick up with issues #3 and #4. Where issue #3 focused on the emergence of the virus, issue #4 sees it spread out into the streets of New York. Yes, that’s right; people are slowly becoming aware of the existence of vampires, but again, these aren’t your typical vampires. Of course in the midst of all the bloodshed and gore we do get a couple of compelling stories, especially with our main character Ephraim, who’s dealing with his own set of problems.
As far as horror comics go, The Strain has proven to be a sleeper hit. The series as a whole debunks the common myth of the vampire. In true Del Toro fashion, these vampires have a distinct look to them that sets them apart from the contemporary vampires that we’ve been used to for so long. Make no mistake; it’s their overall grotesque nature that stands out in this series.
The first four issues can feel a bit underwhelming at first, but nonetheless, David Lapham and Mike Huddleston do tremendous jobs at translating the novel’s compelling characters to comic form and will likely continue to do so as issue #5 and all issues proceeding comes out.
Although the premise is pretty straight-forward, the meat of the story lies within its characters. With the foundation otherwise established by both Del Toro and Hogan, award winning writer David Lapham and artist Mike Huddleston take the helm and offer a magnificent take on the popular trilogy. I applaud both for their execution. If there was any doubt, now is the absolute perfect time for horror fans to become hooked on this series, so make sure you pick up all the issues and keep your eyes peeled for issue #5 in June.