Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review: The Strain #1 (comics)

Standard Cover

Guillermo Del Toro is maybe one of the biggest horror/fantasy/sci-fi influences that the world of pop culture has seen in the last 25 years. I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that, is it? Now he's on the creative team for one of the newest comic series' from Dark Horse- The Strain. Interested yet?

I'm not even all that much into 'horror' per say and I not only read, but tore through our advance copy of the first issue of The Strain. Not that there's all the much horror in this first act, but it's more than likely on the way... in spades.

Here's the synopsis:
When a Boeing 777 lands at JFK International Airport and goes dark on the runway, the Center for Disease Control, fearing a terrorist attack, calls in Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team of expert biological-threat first responders. Only an elderly pawnbroker from Spanish Harlem suspects a darker purpose behind the event-an ancient threat intent on covering mankind in darkness.
Variant Cover to Issue 1
The book is actually an adaptation of a trilogy of novels written by Mr. Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Taking up the 'porting' of the script over to the more visual medium of comics is David Lapham. Now I don't know how much of the original comes through here (since I haven't read the books) but the writing is terrific overall and the story flows like nobody's business.

I'll credit Lapham with that as I've personally transferred screenplays over to comic books in the past and I've found it to be a tedious task at best. In short, keeping the original flavor and story points while making it 'your own' and comprehensible to the reader, well, most times it ain't easy. Lapham does a great job of making part one of Del Toro and Hogan's story shine.

Mike Huddleston handles the pencils for the book (as well as the standard edition cover) and does a very nice job as well. His work ranges from simple and clean (in a Mike Mignola way) to way more intricate and detailed. The neat lines on the big set pieces like the airliner really catch your eye and keep your focus while the nitty gritty detailing on some of the more gruesome or claustrophobic moments, cast quite a foreboding spell for the eye.

Without giving anything away, I can say that the opening comic sets up the main character of the story, CDC specialist Dr.Ephraim Goodweather, and his family. Goodweather isn't your typical hero-type, far from it. He's a divorcee with a young son and a high-powered, high stress job at the Centers for Disease Control. No big muscles, rail guns, or cybernetic parts anywhere. It'll be interesting to see how his role in the events to come plays out since he is, for all accounts and purposes- just a man.

Things to come...
There's also a heavy dose of backstory here where the main plot points are hinted at and the (possible) antagonist glimpsed. It's actually one of the coolest parts of the book as the segment has a real 'old world ghost story' feel to it. Dark, macabre, and very cool.

But the whole book is like that really, there's always this kind of shadowy feel to everything. Huddleston and Lapham, though I didn't know much about them previously, do a great job with The Strain as both script and art work fluidly together (a very necessary key to make any lasting book). But by far, the biggest draw is the source novel by Del Toro and Hogan. In particular, Guillermo just flat out does so much right as a creative force that it shows in everything he does- The Strain is no exception.

It's dark, it's drenched in creepy cool and it absolutely oozes atmosphere. I loved it- buy this book!

Bottom Line:

The Strain releases at comic shops and on Dark Horse's digital storefront on December 14th. Read more about it right here