GRAPHIC CONTENT PICK OF THE WEEK – The Strain #2

Happy New Year! After a brief two-week break, I’m back with a gut full of food and an ambitious mind for the coming year. Why not kick it off with my very first Pick of the Week for 2012?

Last month Lapham and Huddleston began their engrossing, rich tale of vampire mythology, which spans across decades. The full scale of the mythos is yet to be revealed, but the repercussions of letting the vampire plague loose in the current century are starting to surface. Ephraim finds himself in the midst of something far more horrific than he could ever imagine, and his troubles are only beginning. Issue #2 delves further into the mystery of flight 753 and ups the dramatic tone several notches. Lapham is taking his time planting all the seeds for a deliberately paced narrative that showcases his ability to craft a story-driven book that dwindles in the back of your mind. Lapham and Huddleston make a wonderful team, truly capturing the enchanting air of vampire lore, and issue #2 confirms the hopes The Strain will be a great story that restores faith in the blood sucking subgenre.

strain2review
WRITTEN BY: David Lapham
ILLUSTRATED BY: Mike Huddleston
PUBLISHER: Dark Horse
PRICE: $3.50

“As an eclipse covers New York City in midday darkness, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team from the Centers for Disease Control struggle to find an explanation for what happened to Flight 753. But when the symptoms don’t add up to chemical warfare, and bizarre circumstances unexplained by modern medicine arise, Ephraim begins to entertain the ramblings of a Holocaust survivor who knows too much about this unknown threat.”

As with the previous installment, issue #2 works to slowly introduce more plot pieces, providing the reader with slightly more information than the characters. Dr. Ephraim continues to investigate the mysterious happenings of Flight 753, questioning the few passengers who survived the accident. Ironically, the survivors prove to be less helpful than the dead who refuse to decompose due to a lack of blood in their veins. On the other hand, the creepy old dude, who would make Bella Lugosi proud, rants about life after death. Lapham is able to convey an extraordinarily eerie tone throughout by juxtaposing the two storylines, giving the feeling that once the two paths meet, all hell will break loose.

Although not too much actually occurs in the issue, which may not float your boat, Lapham is assuredly teasing us by leaving behind a trail crumbs for us to pick up along the way. Lapham has the ability to pace a story properly with just the right amount of clues to keep you interested and baffled at the same time. That said there are two moments of high tension that should be enough to fill any horror fans gore quota.

Huddleston captures an elegant cinematic feel in his artwork, which is fitting given that it’s originally a del Toro book. His panels flow majestically from one to the next, counteracting the unhurried pacing of the storyline. The smooth, thick linework really brings the characters to life, adding to the depth already provided in the writing. The series is only two issues deep and I already feel myself caring for Ephraim and his son. The final full-page image is a bloody one, and it will be engrained in your mind until next month.

Novel to comic adaptations often feel unmotivated, however the creative team behind The Strain manage to make it read as if it were a comic before anything else. Although the story has just begun, The Strain reminds us of the awe-inducing vampire lore of old, reminds us that the creatures have a deeply rooted mythology. I anxiously await the next installment; this is one book that seems to linger in my mind, which is really the best thing I can say about any comic.