There are a few things that Guillermo del Toro is known for: making striking visual movies that blend into the fantasy world, vivid but not gruesome horror, being a premier director and probably most of all, Hellboy. But did you also know that del Toro is an amazing writter in addition to being one of the best visual directors out there? Well, he is. And teaming up with Chuck Hogan for the novelization of The Strain may just turn out to be his opus. But this horror novel was recently turned into a comic book series being published by Dark Horse. The book was adapted by non other than Stray Bullets’ David Lapham, one of the premier writers in comics in the last 20 years or so. I haven’t read the novel, so some of this may not mesh well for those of you who have. Recently through Comic Book Therapy, I was able to read the first four issues of del Toro and Hogan’s The Strain, a macabre and gothic horror story with very conspiracy laden undertones. It’s a great opening to what I can see being at least an 18-24 issue epic. And with genres like this, sequels are bound to spawn.
Dark Horse has turned out some of the best large press horror books this side of the Walking Dead, and we should all be greatful for it. That’s the great thing about the comic book industry, there is something for everyone. Young, mature, horror, super heroes, slice of life, western or sci fi, we can all find something we’ll enjoy. And I’ll be honest, with the exception of the Walking Dead and 30 Days of Night, I’m not terribly into horror comics. Even though I love horror movies, horror comics don’t tend to float my boat. And to be honest with all the crap vampire lore that’s floating around out there, you might see this title on the shelf and think it’s just another attempt at cashing in on the vogue that teenage girls seem to glom onto. Trust me, THIS IS ANYTHING BUT THAT! You’re not gonna see tweens wearing The Strain t-shirts or Hot Topic selling crappy merch from this series. This IS a thinking man’s vampire story. Why? Cause it’s anything but typical. From the way the creatures feed, to the massive gore factor and the possible government involvement with The Strain’s creation you’re getting Tom Clancy meets The Lost Boys amped up on steroids.
How far would you go to cover up possibly the biggest biological outbreak in the modern history of the world? Well, currently in the pages of The Strain, the epidemic which is growing to pandemic preportions, even the mighty United States government might not be able to contain this. And for those of us who love zombie outbreak type scenarios, could not be happier.
I’ll be honest, when I first cracked open my advance PDF copy of this book, I wasn’t jazzed about the artwork. I mean I was weened on gigantic muscles clad in spandex and capes and this whole sensational idea of what comic book art was supposed to be. I think a lot of us grew up with this inherent flaw. Super heroes are larger than life. And the artwork is supposed to reflect that. But horror comics are a totally different monster. And the artwork, needs to bring that same, raw and gritty look from the equally blood dripping words. So clean lines and bold, powerful and almost blinding colors wouldn’t fit. And after breezing through the first issue, I was hooked.
Not to be over praise worthy, I mean there are still some things to improve upon, but that’s what an epic is supposed to do. It grows, with every panel and every issue. You have to build slowly. Sure you need to pace yourself, but much like one of my favorite horror novels ever, Intensity by Dean Koontz, you have to give your audience something quick. Like a junkie, that first hit has to be hard and lasting, otherwise we’re not gonna bother to finish. The creative crew on The Strain give us that. Although not in the way you might expect from a horror comic. It’s not visual. You meet a few of the characters and you learn about them. Making them relatable and dynamic. You abduct us with identifying with your main characters and then you sledgehammer us over the head with something so horrific that we as the readers will never be the same.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
And keeping with my current use of professional wrestling finishing maneuvers for grades, here comes another one. And it’s just as vicious as The Strain. It’ll have you grabbing your neck anc sympathizing with its victim. Whether you call her Victoria, Tara or Lisa Marie, you’re sucked into her web as one of her Widow’s Peak Freaks. And her Widow’s Peak, which is one part Gory Special, one part hangman’s neckbreaker and all devastation… Lisa Marie, Tara or whatever you wanna call her will leave you lying in the ring, just like The Strain, unconscious, totally spent and loving every minute of it.