The Strain

The Strain Comic Book issue 1In Romania in the late ’20s, an elderly woman tells her grandson about a local legend. The legend of a man with a peculiar affliction.  90 years later, in the darkness of New York’s JFK airport, a lone Boeing 777 sits dormant. The plane has no power, no open doors, and no living passengers.
This summer I finally got the chance to read Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain, the first in what was going to become a trilogy. It was heralded as “their take” on the vampire mythos and as a fan of these two, I was excited. To me, the first book was a fantastic piece of modern horror literature. There aren’t many books being put out specifically for genre fans, but this was one (and, of course, it makes a nice deviation from all of the young adult ┬ôvampire┬ö books of late). It was only a matter of time, also, before the book was to be adapted. Movie? Comic? Musical? It was going to happen with Del Toro involved. Luckily it was the second option.

David Lapham (Stray Bullets) took on the scripting duties for the book and he didn’t disappoint. He manages to take a large chunk of the story and condense it into the 22-page issue without hindering or damaging any aspect of it. The characters are also handled well. There is more character development in this one issue than the past 10 issues of The Amazing Spider-man. The pacing in the book is well plotted. And the story fits perfect into this medium. The structure of this issue in particular feels so natural, almost like it is it’s own thing. More of a companion piece to the novel than an adaptation. It doesn’t seem like Lapham has attempted to deviate from the source either, or add anything of his own to the story, which might have been disastrous had he attempted.
Mike Huddleson’s art, while complimentary to the tone of the story, doesn’t seem to take the story to the next step. It’s not bad art, but it looks fascinatingly plain in comparison to the content of the story. Specifically his wide shots of characters and scenery. His close ups are spot on. But his art is also very reminiscent of Mignola’s art, perhaps one reason it was difficult to accept considering he’s not Mignola. Two things about his art that do work in his favor: His depictions of the grotesque fates of the characters seem like realistic gore but have a pseudo beauty to them. Also the ways he works with shadows and darkness in the book. These two elements are important to vampire stories of course, but the way he draws these sweeping and monstrous shadows that swallow the page are probably his strongest points in the work.
I do think Dark Horse shot their wad prematurely with the primary cover for this issue. It gives away to the unfamiliar readers what the vampires will be like in the book, though not a world-ending spoiler, it shows off the enhanced features of the vampires to the unfamiliar. While I enjoy the new interpretation of the monsters, it might be a factor that would turn off some readers, but the idea of a unique and exciting looking monster should be an attraction to horror fans.
I’m interested to see how the mini-series continues, not only in terms of it as an adaptation but to see the artist’s depiction of what is to come in the story. There is a lot in terms of narrative here for a reader to chew on, and the art work, while sometimes bland, will keep your eye with it’s attention to the darker side of the story. Plus the comic is only a dollar, how can you say “No” to that?