The Strain Book One by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, David Lapham and Dan Jackson

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The Strain Book One by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, David Lapham and Dan Jackson

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Buy The Strain Book One by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, David Lapham and Dan Jackson at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Showing that even del Toro can struggle to find something completely new to say regarding vampires, this still has some chutzpah and class, and is worth a look.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 180 Date: July 2014
Publisher: Dark Horse
ISBN: 9781616555481

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A liner ends its journey from Europe in a port city, and waits, silently, holding whatever secrets it had with little signs of life. It is found to contain a heavy box, almost coffin-like, containing mud – and something else. But this is not the coasts of England, and this is not Bram Stoker. This is also not a sailing boat, but an airliner – a Boeing 777, stuck at JFK airport with no signs of life. The CDC and one man – Dr Ephraim Goodweather – are tasked with looking into it. But he won't like what he finds – and nor should anyone. The problem is, some do…

I suppose you can't really expect a vampire story any more to only have one vampire (although A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick is a pretty damn fine exception to prove the rule). Since the likes of 30 Days of Night you need a host of them to threaten a community. The USP of this horror story is two-fold – one, that the Bram Stokerish opening leads to four morgues full of willing spreaders of a viral vampire problem that can easily swamp New York within days, and two, that the vampire does not have to look like a count with a dimwit human assistant, for he has an aristocratic human brains trust backing him, and putting problems in the way of Goodweather and all those who would side with him.

Goodweather also has problems at home – while he is having a relationship with a colleague, he has the baggage of a son by an ex, and neither enough custody nor free time to put things right. You also need to know about the rat catcher – where would a vampire story be without rats? – and the aged vampire hunter, an ex-Nazi prisoner who knows all the European lore and all the modern tricks needed to combat the Big Bad.

I hope you can surmise from that that a lot of this book almost reeks too much of being a del Toro story – even with a well-known colleague like Hogan on board, the air of his films and his typical concerns and tropes are writ large. Such also is the case with the artwork here, for the less-than realistic colour palettes, angular lines with which faces are drawn, and sometimes extreme camera angles (especially from below our natural line of sight) all put me in mind of Mike Mignola, creator of del Toro's favourite, Hellboy. That said there is enough here to make the book distinct, with a proper directorial gloss on things – bright neon for the family home, more earthy and scratchy moods when needed.

It's a distinct book, as I say, if not distinguished. What probably sold it to me the most was that in eleven fast-moving comic issues (regularly featuring nothing like the expected cliff-hangers, and flowing directly from one issue to the next in a rarely-done fashion) this book replicates (to some extent, at least) the whole over-sized novel that was the first part in the original trilogy. That brings me back once more to the fact that there is not too much 'original' here – bar perhaps the more conspiratorial side to proceedings – but there is more to come, and I'm sure that many will want to be on board for it. There's certainly enough dropped hints about what is to come, and however familiar the del Toro ground is, it's bound to be worth a look – as, in conclusion, is this opening volume.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

One of the horror novels we've enjoyed most recently has been The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones.

Buy The Strain Book One by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, David Lapham and Dan Jackson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Strain Book One by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, David Lapham and Dan Jackson at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Strain Book One by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, David Lapham and Dan Jackson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Strain Book One by Guillermo del Toro, Chuck Hogan, David Lapham and Dan Jackson at Amazon.com.

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