30 Days of Night is brutal. No seriously, simply opening the cover of the book will land you a roundhouse kick to the face and a punch in the stomach. I want to call it the Chuck Norris of Vampire graphic novels but that would be doing Vampires a serious disservice.
Steve Niles’ comic book series starts with the titular 30 Days of Night. Set in the windswept Barrow, the northernmost town of Alaska where the sun does not rise for 30 days, it details the survival of the town people against a horde of vampires.
Somewhere in their journey from 1922’s Nosferatu, vampires went from bone-chilling creatures to teenage brooding angst (or angsty brood-yness, depending on the day) that has inspired the irritating “He He He, it Twinkles” tagline. I’m surprised Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri or DeBeers has not signed on Edward Cullen as an ambassador yet. Diamonds and vampires are forever after all.
But the vampires that descend on Barrow the moment the sun sets are merciless and relentless. Armed with a mouth full of shark-like teeth, black eyes and super-human powers, they know only one thing- hunger. Today they live among us, an unusually reticent neighbor, the nasty night shift manager at the 7/11. “Do you know,” as one of the vampires asks “, how many years it has taken us to convince humans that we are a myth?”
Ben Templesmith’s art work, based in water and pencil supplements the dizzying pace of the story, pages and pages of blood spattered snow and decapitated heads, it seems like he keeps daring the reader to turn to the next page. And turn we do, becasue along with the rich world of the vampires, he also creates an equally complete world of human characters that keeps us rooted in reality.
Eben and Stella Olemaun are the sheriff-couple of Barrow that manage to survive the 30 days of darkness. The speed, poetry and cruelty with which characters are introduced and destroyed (within panels sometimes), makes you lament the transience of the reality that Templesmith and Niles have created. We are reminded that the war of human vs. vampires shall be rife with casualties. At the end of the book, I found myself desperately looking for plot holes, trying to reconcile the fact that it’s just a comic book and I didn’t need to panic. There were some minor ones no doubt, but nothing glaring enough to take you away from the narrative of the story.
The second installment of the series labelled “Dark Days” follows Stella Olemaun as she tours L.A, trying to convince the world of theexistence of vampires. The female protagonist and antagonist add a psychological and emotional element to the story that’s normally missing in bad-ass, punch-to-the-face, get-up-inspite-of-being-shot-in-the-chest-10-times kind of hero. The unnerving calm hides a conflicted woman trying to come to terms with her loss and desire for revenge. It’s this quality that makes the story so unpredictable, because the pivot is not situational, but emotional. The line between humans and vampires blurs as she makes her way deeper into their world.
The third installment “Return to Barrow” takes us back to the scene of the original massacre. I’m ready with my truck full of ammo to take a wild ride on this one!