Having twice praised artist Ben Templesmith on this blog, first for his work on the Dead Space mini, then his all-to-short tenure on Gotham By Midnight I thought it only fair to now cover the comic that really established him as an artist with a unique style that is especially suited to telling horror stories. In 2002 he teamed up with writer Peter Niles for this three issue story which started life as an unsuccessful comic pitch then an unsuccessful film pitch then it was pitched to IDW as a comic again and they took a gamble on it that paid off big time. It's about a town in Alaska called Barrow. In winter the sun sets on November the 17th and doesn't rise again until December the 18th so the town is mainly populated by rugged types like the workers on a nearby oil pipeline, whalers and the support structure any small town has, police, doctors and so on. However this year the thirty day night is going to be a grim one as vampires descend and rip through the town and we are shown a rag tag remnant of the population trying their very best to defeat them and make it to sunrise alive. Ironically the story was turned into a film in 2007 after the comic proved such a hit. The story is pretty gruesome, how could it not be considering the subject matter? But the dark, oppressive and brooding quality of Templesmith's art makes it come over in quite a stylized manner which might take the edge off for some people. Nile's scripting is sharp and action filled with a somewhat bittersweet ending. You can pick this up either as a collected edition on it's own, or like I have, as the very reasonably priced Omnibus which also collects the next two stories in the series, as this first storyline was popular enough to carry on and expand the vampire mythos some more. So let's dig in.
|Stella and Eben.|
In New Orleans a mysterious woman who is named Judith in the next series, is being shown some email correspondence intercepted by a man called George. He shows her messages from someone called "Marlow" who has invited twenty "attendees" to come to Barrow. There is one message from someone who just signs their name as "V" who seems curious about Marlow's plan.
|The mystery woman decodes the mystery emails.|
We are then introduced briefly to a man called Gus who came to Barrow escaping "bad debt and a bad marriage". He looks after the building that houses the communications and television reception hub. But inside are several strangers who quiz him about the place then kill him and destroy all the equipment.
|Marlowe and his crew start the assualt.|
They go to check on the communications building and see smoke rising from it. Eben says they should round everyone up while he makes a run for help. As he and Stella drive back into town they speculate who might be causing all this, maybe a criminal gang or terrorists after the pipeline.
|A superstrong prisoner dealt with.|
Narrator: "They have feasted on the men, women and children of Barrow without mercy, without pause. This is the world of which they have only dreamed. Endless night and an endless supply of blood and meat. This is how it is meant to be: humans like bottles. Waiting for their cork to be popped".
A few survivors including Eben and Stella have found a secure hiding place in an old, disused industrial furnace. They discuss how to kill the creatures, speculating it must involve destroying the head like the one they killed in the jail.
|The town burns.|
|Head needs to be completely off!|
The survivors meanwhile discuss their situation. They can't beat the vampires in a fight so the only real option is to hide until the sun rises, but they'll starve before then. Eben says that the cold affects their sense of smell which is why they have been able to stay hidden. Then they hear the sound of the vampires clapping and peek out of the window to see what is going on.
|Elder vampire Vincente arrives.|
Vicente: "You certainly have discovered something here, Marlow."
Marlow: "I thought you'd be happy".
Vincente: "I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm happy as much as I am completely stunned by your absolute stupidity."
Marlow: "Well thank you... what?"
Vicente strikes Marlow saying it has taken them "hundreds! thousands!" of years to be thought of as a myth. Now Marlow has given humanity a reason to believe in them again. "Suspicion and fear are the seed of our extinction! Again we will be hunted!" He tears off Marlow's head and crushes it underfoot, giving the watching Eben an idea as he does so.
|Vincente is displeased.|
Vicente: "I want this place destroyed. I want every structure burned. Every carcass incinerated. By this time tommorrow I want this town wiped off the map."
Back with the survivors, one of them went outside to look for his girlfriend and got scratched by a vampire. He says he can feel it inside him killing him. Then suddenly he turns.
He tries to escape but Eben rams somesort of device that looks like a strimmer in his face. Then he draws some of the vampire's blood into a syringe before removing his head completely.
|Eben strimms a new vampire to his second death.|
|Vampires bring down the helicopter but proof has got out.|
Narrator: "It feels like fire. A fire that spreads mercilessly through his veins in seconds. Killing as it spreads. Burning. Infecting. Transforming".
Eben manages to kep his right mind and runs out to confront Vincente and the others. With bravado he says, "you want someone to bite? Bite me."
The assembled vampires laugh and Eben jumps at Vicente who smacks him aside. But Eben rallies and attacks again and they trade blows and insults until slowly Eben gets the upperhand and this brings the survivors out to watch too.
|Immmmmortal Kombat! (sorry)|
Finally Eben punches his arm through Vicente's mouth and rips his head off. Then he turns to the rest of the vampires and says:
Eben: "Get out of my town."
The vampires leave. Eben says he is fighting so hard to keep himself from fully turning. He and Stella decide to sit together and in a nice bookend to the start of the story, greet the sunrise together.
Of course this turns Eben into ash but not before he has told Stella, "I could live forever sure. But I don't want to breathe another second... if I can't remember what it feels like to love you". And he disintegrates leaving Stella all alone, but as we will see in the next story in the series, she gains a new crusade to destroy vampires wherever they may be found.
|Eben and Stella kiss as sun rises.|