The Strain is based on the great director Guillermo del Toro’s first book in the vampire horror trilogy he wrote with Chuck Hogan. The comic is adapted by David Lapham with Mike Huddleston on art and covers and Dan Jackson on colors. The story is very unique in its take on vampires. It takes the spread of vampirism as a blood-born infestation. The look of the vampires are quiet scary as well. Guillermo del Toro has a dark and twisted mind, that’s what makes him so great at what he does. I haven’t read the trilogy, but from a little research it seems to follow the books fairly close. A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK airport and is on the tarmac, when it stops dead. It’s locked from the inside with all the shades pulled. Dr. Ephraim Goodweather from the CDC is called in from spending time with his son to investigate. He finds all the passengers dead. Because the collective four issues have been out, there may be spoilers even though I’ll be discussing things in general and more overall themes.
The four issues set up the characters nicely. With the horrors you know will be unleashed, you have to care about the characters for there to be any kind of payoff and fear of the danger in which they find themselves. There is action and scary vampire-like monsters for sure, but this is going to be a long story so it’s not action every second. That this will be a long form story is important to keep in mind. You aren’t going to get the kick you would in other comics, but the story is superb and you will quickly get hooked. You find yourself drawn in to Ephraim’s problems more than what bloody horrors are going on elsewhere, sometimes but not all the time though. The mix of old myths and legends with today’s science make for an interesting coupling. It’s a horror story but at times it feels like a procedural you would see on TV. As the investigation into what is going on unfolds, the mystic and real world elements combine.
At times this feels almost like a movie. It seems like the comic could be used as storyboards for del Toro if he decided to direct. There has been pretty widespread speculation that he is going to do just that. I’d be more than happy with it. It definitely has the del Toro touch, but you can feel a little bit of Stephen King’s The Stand. Not to take away from del Toro’s story, it is original but with these types of stories it is hard not to have some kind of overlap with another story.
The art in this book is pretty good, but at times it is very hit and miss for me. Mike Huddleston does a great job with the monsters and most every panel, but sometimes his background work took me out of the story. He has a very unique style but when you look behind the character in focus you see a misshapen and featureless speck. In places it seems like it isn’t completely finished. To be such a dark and gritty tale, I would have liked to have seen more emotion on every characters face. When you look you can see huge long arms and legs with tiny, featureless pea heads. Other than the background work, it is very in sync with the story. Very few panels are wasted. To Huddleston credit, the covers are outstanding. Dan Jackson does excellent work with the colors and really sets the tone well. David Lapham had a fine piece of source material and he does an excellent job translating it to the comic book form.
Bottom Line: This is a great piece of horror. If you like a longer arching story with enough action to keep the pace going while still keeping great character development, you’ve found your next read. The story is great and really keeps you wondering where it’s going. Other than my minor quibbles about the art, this is a very fine piece of work. I give The Strain #1-4 a score of 3.5/5
Cody "The Thorverine" Ferrell
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