Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: David Lapham
Artist: Mike Huddleston
Release Date: 18th March 2015
In the first issue of this series we were shown the origin of the Master and his kind, wherein it appeared that some form of parasite was responsible for infecting humankind and creating the now dominant vampire horde. The opening pages of this issue clarify how the ‘parasite’ came to be, in a clever explanation of traditional vampire weaknesses to sunlight, silver, and crossing running water. It’s well conceived, and brilliantly laid out on the page (including some nice changes to lettering and caption boxes), but it highlights the increasingly ‘biblical’ slant the narrative has taken over the last few issues.
For example, the story of Ozryel is analogous to that of the devil, and follows a rather unnecessary Deus Ex Machina moment in the last issue, where our band of heroes were saved by an ‘act of God’. Of course, we know that vampires and religion are close bedfellows (or should that be coffin fellows?), but there is very rarely, if ever, divine intervention when it comes to characters duking it out with the bloodthirsty undead, and this shift in tone has raised some concerns in regard to the resolution of the arc.
This is in no way a criticism of David Lapham’s writing; he is after all working from Del Toro and Hogan’s original script, and his deeply nuanced writing has shone throughout, giving us rounded, engaging characters to give a shit about. Ephraim is a case in point; surrounded by enemies from within and without, iron-willed in the face of the master’s ceaseless attempts to have him submit, but horribly afflicted by hubris and filled with resentment and jealousy over the failure of the central relationships in his life. The walls are beginning to close in around him, and in almost every panel he’s depicted in a confined space. This is in contrast to his son, shown in relative freedom under the master’s control and further strengthening the zookeeper metaphor established earlier in the series.
In order to convey such complexities, Lapham has the perfect foil in Mike Huddleston, whose art meshes wonderfully well with Lapham’s script. His panel composition and flow has a real cinematic sensibility to it, and in combination with some deft character work he is able to capture the gravity of key moments. His rugged pencils, bold inks, and distressed backgrounds give the book a desperate, downtrodden feel, and is key feature of the book’s appeal.
Although I have some reservations about the direction of the story, this is still a very well written and brilliantly drawn book. Here’s hoping it ends as well as it started.