Now that the filth of Twilight is behind us, horror fans can peek out from their enclaves and reclaim the vampire genre from the greasy clutches of angst-ridden tweens. With Veritgo’s American Vampire taking a hiatus this year, there is a vampire sized hole in the entertainment world that needs to be filled. Luckily we have Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s epic vampire trilogy The Strain. Originally a series of novels, The Strain has been adapted into comic format by Dark Horse Comics. The first series, spanning 11 issues, are based on the premiere novel in the trilogy. FX has also ordered a pilot to turn the novels into an ongoing television series, which was Del Toro’s original intention. It seems that The Strain is going to be around for a while, but is this a vampire saga you can sink your teeth into?
The first series in the trilogy kicks off with an ominous airplane landing. This being a horror series, you can bet this plane is anything but normal. Trapped in the cabin of the plane are 198 deceased passengers. The mystery grows when Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, a CDC employee charged with solving this mystery, discovers three survivors and an empty wooden coffin. Following the event’s closely on a television set half way across town, Holocaust survivor Professor Abraham Setrakian has seen this all before, and knows a war is coming. Soon enough, the dead from the plane rise up and begin spreading terror, and a vampiric plague, across New York City. Now it’s up Ephraim, Abraham and a rag-tag bunch of survivors to stop the plague and save the city before all of humanity is lost.
Del Toro and Hogan have successfully created a vampire mythology all their own. They utilize the more horrific aspects of vampire culture making The Strain a gore-filled ride that’s not for the faint of heart. These are not suave and sparkly vampires out to make you swoon. These are pale, parasitic, zombie-like monsters lusting for blood through a giant tongue that ejects out of their bulbous swollen throats. Del Toro and Hogan created a wholly unique vampire for their series which is part of what makes this series work. The only way for a vampire series to be successful nowadays is to create something new, yet something familiar, and our writers have done just that.
Ephraim, our main protagonist, is a dead-beat father with a drinking problem, just trying to do right by his son. It’s this need to protect those he loves that fuels his fire and turns him into the hero this story needs. His journey is relatable and rewarding, especially when he gets his hands on a nail gun. Outside of Eph, The Strain feature a strong ensemble cast. Each character is unique yet non-obtrusive, unless they need to be. One complaint however would be against the Master, the head of the vampires. His one sided goal for world domination makes him the least interesting character in the story. With the second part of the trilogy on the horizon, hopefully his storyline becomes more fleshed out. The ‘evil because he’s evil’ shtick just isn’t cutting it.
The art department certainly had their work cut out for them. Any fan of Del Toro knows that he has a unique visual style, one he brings to every project he’s a part of. Luckily artist Mike Huddleston and colourist Dan Jackson are up to the task. As previously stated, these vampires are unique to The Strain. One glance of the page and you’ll know what you’re reading. The environments are atmospheric and creepy, and the action, specifically the final showdown between Eph and the Master is crisp and easy to follow. Jackson also makes excellent use of red. It’d be beautiful if it wasn’t so damned disgusting.
With a television show on its way, as well as the comic follow-up entitled The Fall, it seems we’ll being seeing a lot of The Strain and that is certainly not a bad thing. It’s nice to have some truly talented artists behind a vampire franchise, and The Strain is a welcome addition to any horror fan’s long box.