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Review: The Strain Graphic Novel

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Graphically eye-opening, but textually adequate...

Review: The Strain Graphic Novel

Back in 2009 horror auteur Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone) added another string to his bloody bow when he and co-author Chuck Hogan released The Strain, the first of a trilogy of vampire novels, since completed by The Fall (2010) and The Night Eternal (2011). The first book has now been given the graphic novel treatment, with Del Toro handing the creative reins to writer David Lapham; who, along with artist Mike Huddlestone and colorist Dan Jackson, has been given the green light to adapt the story as they see fit into the ongoing comic series, the first six issues of which are collected here.

Review: The Strain Graphic NovelThe saga begins with a very effective sequence featuring a Boeing 777 landing at JFK International Airport and going dark on the runway. Initially fearing a terrorist attack, the Centers for Disease Control draft in Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team of expert biological-threat first responders to assess the situation, which of course rapidly goes south. Throw into the mix an elderly pawnbroker from Spanish Harlem who suspects, quite correctly, that something from his childhood has returned and the game is well and truly afoot.

Not having read any of the novels, I can’t comment on how faithful the adaptation is, but having read a good number of vampire novels, graphic and otherwise, I do feel somewhat qualified to report that while Del Toro’s take on the bloodsucking genre is certainly competent and enjoyable, there’s nothing here that feels new or innovative. Flash back almost a decade to when I first read Steve Niles’s 30 Days Of Night and I recall being impressed and feeling as though I’d just enjoyed a sumptuous steak dinner with a good red wine after finishing the last page. As I closed up The Strain however, I felt more like having just wolfed down a burger and fries with a diet coke.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s much to enjoy here. The plot rattles along at a reasonable pace, and the characters, while not particularly memorable or likable enough to care about too much, suit the mood of the tale. Likewise Mike Huddlestone’s artwork is adequate, but nothing to write home about. Credit where it’s due, though, as the virtually photo-realistic covers, each of which has been lovingly created by E M Gist, are nothing short of stunning, but then fans of Gist’s work will expect nothing less.

Essentially, The Strain is an interesting - if somewhat predictable - and pedestrian take on the vampire genre. If you’re a fan of fangs, and you’ve already read 30 Days Of Night, then by all means I recommend giving it a go, but if you’ve yet to discover Steve Niles’s high water mark then that should be your first point of call, rather than The Strain.

3 stars


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