Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: The Strain #1

DARK HORSE COMICS – @DarkHorseComics

STORY: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
SCRIPT: David Lapham
ART: Mike Huddleston
COLORS: Dan Jackson
LETTERS: Clem Robins
COVER: Mike Huddleston
32pp, Color, $1.00 U.S. (December 2011)

Guillermo del Toro is a filmmaker known for directing such movies as Blade 2, the Hellboy movies, and the Oscar-nominated Pan’s Labyrinth.  Chuck Hogan is an American novelist, and he wrote Prince of Thieves, the novel that Ben Affleck adapted into the Oscar-nominated film, The Town (2010).

Together, del Toro and Hogan produced The Strain, a 2009 vampire novel, the first installment of The Strain trilogy.  I’m assuming that Hogan did the actual prose writing for The Strain, but del Toro’s hand in this concept is clear.

Beginning in 2011, Dark Horse Comics began publishing an 11-issue comic book adaptation of the book, also entitled The Strain.  David Lapham wrote the script adapting the novel, and Mike Huddleston drew the series, with colors by Dan Jackson.

The Strain #1 begins in Romania, 1927.  A grandmother tells her young grandson a frightening fairy tale over dinner.  It is the story of Josef Sardu, a 19th century Polish nobleman, afflicted by gigantism, and a disastrous hunt of which he was part.

The story jumps to the present day and finds Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) trying to spend some quality time with his son, Zach.  Work, however, intrudes.  Dr. Goodweather is the head of the Canary Project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats.

Apparently, there is a big threat brewing at J.F.K. (John F. Kennedy International Airport) in New York City.  That’s where a Boeing 777 went dead silent with window shades pulled down and all lights out.  With his second-in-command, Nora Martinez, at his side, Goodweather makes a bizarre discovery.  Meanwhile, a Nazi concentration camp survivor recognizes something bad.

I hope that Dark Horse Comics’ decision to offer this first issue at a $1 cover price paid off for the publisher in sales.  The Strain #1 is good.  It reminds me of a Mike Mignola comic book or at least one created under his supervision.  That would make sense with the del Toro-Mignola connection on the Hellboy movies.

Lapham has fashioned a chilling tale in which the sense of dread grows with each new scene.  He drags you along into a riveting story that will take you to a bad place, but the kind that’s fun if you’re reading about it.  This is well-written enough that any veteran comic book artist with experience in horror comic books could be the series artist.  That is no swipe at artist Mike Huddleston, however.  He’s good here, and creates atmosphere without artistic bells and whistles.  If the series maintains a high level of quality, Huddleston might end up being called a master of horror for it.

Fans of horror comic books, particularly titles like Hellboy and BPRD, will like The Strain.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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