This is the other story that ran with Dead Billy Dead, which I looked at last month, in the Bloodsucker Tales miniseries. It's back being drawn by Ben Templesmith, but it's the first story not written by Peter Niles. Matt Fraction takes up the challenge of writing for the series with a very angry story about the disposable women of a Mexican town called Juarez. The star of the story is an private investigator from the US called Lex Nova who has read about the fact that up to four hundred women have gone missing over the years in the town and off his own back has decided to look into it as he thinks it might be connected to a case he's worked before. The storyline is actually a seven part main story called "Juarez or Lex Nova And The Case Of The 400 Dead Mexican Girls" and a one chapter prequel called sub-titled "Alex Gorodetski And The Case Of The One Missing White Girl or The Beginning". Which is something of a mouthful, so for the purposes of titling this post I have simply used Juarez. Lex Nova is a quirky chap, he has an internal "PI's monologue" that he unfortunately can't help giving voice to, which gets him into trouble a couple of times. It's a pretty bleak story as it turns out normal people can be just as monstrous as vampires and it pulls no punches in its look at life in a dirt poor Mexican border town. We begin with the "Case of the 400 Missing Dead Girls."
It starts with a young woman, naked with ropes round her wrists running across the desert. She trips and falls and several people in black leathers and motorbike helmets surround her. Then blood starts flying. We cut to Lex Nova arriving in town saying it smells like "tortilla and dead girl out here" and goes into a bar.
Lex: "Some call it coincidence. Or a serial killer. Or serial killers. Or a serial killer and a copycat serial killer. Whatever s'bullshit... I know who's killing those girls."
We then cut to the burial of Titania Acosta and the priest comforting her family. Then we see a flashback of two of the town policemen, Garcia and Martinez finding the remains of the Titania the girl being chased at the start. She's been mutilated and her breasts cut off.
Back with Lex, he confronts Mr. Acosta saying to himself that he knows Acosta wants to talk. When Mr. Acosta tells him he's saying that aloud, Lex pulls a gun on him. Mr. Acosta tells him his daughter worked in a factory, like all the other girls in Juarez, "then one day she doesn't come home." Suddenly three shadowy figures come into the bar, one armed with a basebat bat with nails in it.
|A welcoming commitee|
We then return to Lex driving a van he took from one of the men who attacked him, he pulls the spiked bat off his face and smashes a post box with it as he passes. He goes to the Acosta house where there is a priest helping them pray.
Lex makes himself at home as Mr. Acosta shuffles off drinking. Their son Joe asks him about LA where Lex used to live. He thinks the girls are being killed by the chupacubra The priest tells Joe to take his mum for a lie down so he can be alone with Lex.
|Lex and the priest.|
Priest: "We made our daughter's slaves. We made our daughters whores. Now we've made them cattle. And Juarez a slaughterhouse. So fuck God."
He says he doesn't believe in God anymore, he just turns up for the comfort of the community. He tells Lex he might get some information from Pilar, Titania Acosta's sister. She works the factories then she works the town, "she is already lost". But Lex goes to find her.
Bingo and his girls are waiting in the border queue to cross into Mexico and Bingo is getting frustrated. When it comes to his turn he mesmerises the borderguard into thinking three scribbled on bits of paper are their ID. Then Bingo tells him to blow his head off in front of the little girl in the car behind, and the man obliges.
|Bingo in action.|
Reyes: "Who cares for the whores of Juarez? We give them lives. We give them work. And then we give them death."
We then see Lex struggling through the mass of girls trying to find Pilar. Then we join the priest, someone is in for confession. It is one of Reyes's men and he starts to confessing to all the murders of the girls.
Pilar is in a truck cab with a fat guy. She is about to suck his cock when Lex runs at the vehicle and punches him out through the window. Meanwhile as the man - Paco - in confession keeps going through the names of those he killed, the priest explodes in rage and drags the man out of confession and beats him to death with a chair.
|No Hail Mary's for Paco.|
He takes her to a house and tells her to get inside and he'll park the truck up outside town. There are goats around the house, there won't be for long. Then we see Bingo talking to Reyes and a couple of his men. They've roughed them up and Bingo can't believe that "y'all been rapin' and killin' all these girls cos y'all are rich and bored and yah can. And there ain't nobody to stop it."
Reyes says the girls are trash and it is his right. Bigo cuts him off saying he's a vampire who has done some terrible shit in his time because people are just food to him:
Bingo: "I do it - We do it - Because we have to. You crazy bastards do it 'cuz you want to."
Bingo tells Reyes he wants to do business with him, then he and his girls go upstairs to sleep until sundown. One of Reye's men says this is "evil". Reyes notes the irony of that statement, then says "it's power" actually. We then cut to the fat man whose truck Lex stole waking up in the back with a bunch of dismembered goats.
In the priest car, Lex tells him that there are vampires involved with these killings. The priest asks angrily if he thinks everyone in Mexico is retarded? Lex says he's a detective who gets the job done. The priest says, "There's no boogie man in Juarez. Just us."
He tells Lex there are four guys behind the killings. "There crime is that they're rich. They're bored. And they have the power to get away with it." Lex asks what "this crazy fucking priest wants." The priest says "I want them to pay".
Joe steals some cash from his mother's purse and starts to leave the house when Lex appears giving him a fright. He tells Lex that his dad is at work and leaves. He bribes (don't tell Donald Trump!) the border guard and cycles to El Paso and uses the resources there to look a LA Times newspaper story with the headline "Detective Sought In Missing Girl Case."
Back at the Acosta's, Lex has bought all of them bar Joe together. He tells them they are still a family so "don't fuck it up". And he departs with a shovel. Before he goes, he takes the goat into the shed and feeds on it, confirming that he is a vampire. Joe and his friends are peeking in through the window and believe it confirms he's the "goatsucker."
|Lex's secret revealed.|
Bingo is pacing the room saying he's depressed Uncle Zero isn't here. When Halo tries to comfort him with all the feeding they can do he tells her to shut up and that he wishes Echo could talk so he could shut her up, but he does love making her squeal.
Joe calls in to the police he has information on a man connected with recent homicides in the town. The priest and Lex meanwhile are digging up Titania Acosta's body. We then see Joe being interviewed by the police and he fingers Lex Nova for the murders. He says he and the priest are together a lot because the priest wants to save him "because he's crazy and eats live goats."
In the truck with Titania's coffin in the back, Lex admits he woke up hungry. The priest asks if it was for him? Lex says human blood is a no no for him, "even though it's what you want the most". Then he throws the priest out of the truck saying he's going to do the thing now.
Back at Reye's place, Bingo and the girls have been having an orgy of blood and murder having been supplied nine girls. Reyes angrily tells his men to deal with them, "use fucking garlic. Or crosses or whatever. You've seen the movies." He also tells them to "read that woman's book" referring to Stella Olemaun's "30 Days Of Night Book" on dealing with vampires.
He's about to buy a corpse "to keep the FBI up north" as he's been told it's a American one. One of the cops accompanys him. They drive out into the desert where Lex is waiting. When asked his name he says "Don't say Lex Nova" four times, before saying "Cornelius".
"Reyes" asks what her name was. "Olivia Honeycutt" says Lex. "Reyes" then points his gun at Lex saying the body is Titania Acosta and he's a cop. We then cut to the Acosta's. The mother tells Pilar she is a whore and to be out of the house by sunrise or she'll call the police.
Back with Lex. The cop is dead and Lex smells the real Reyes lurking nearby. He still has the blackmail money and as he drives off he says he'll give half to the Acosta's and half to the church. A happy ending. But the police are now on his tail.
At Reyes's place, his men burst in on Bingo armed with crosses and stakes. They try and stake Bingo through the heart but he just regards it with bemusement. He kills the man and the girls grab the other who has "some explaining to do."
Lex meanwhile is kneeling on the ground surrounded by cops. Joe identifies him and they find the body of Titania in the back of the truck as well as all the cash. Lex Nova is placed under arrest. We return to Bingo who has Reyes hanging upside down and he quizzes him about Lex, when Reyes says he called the girl "Olivia Honeycutt" Bingo responds with "of course he did.". He lets Reye's down after being told Lex is in custody by one of the cops.
Echo is locked in a cage. Halo sneaks her a necklace and says she'll leave the cage open for her. Bingo comes in, and says Lex, "the bane of my fuckin' existence." is now in a cage. Lex is indeed in a cell and has been very badly beaten. As he lies on the floor, Bingo and Halo come visit. He bends the bars and drags Lex out and tosses him around. "Where's Olivia?" asks Lex. Bingo doesn't want to talk about that.
|Bingo beat a badly injured Lex.|
Bingo dumps Lex in the church and leaves him. "I was dying" Lex says to himself. Pilar is thumbing a lift and Reyes pulls up and gives her a ride. Lex is having a near death experience which involves being on the deck of the Enterprise. Then he says he's just fucking around, all you feel is cold and darkness.
The priest and Echo find him and the priest desperately asks her to make him like her. So she cuts into the priest's throat and the blood splashes in Lex's mouth. He rises up, totally animalistic and marches over to Reye's home where Bingo is sleeping. Reyes arrives at some sort of community centre and says the people killing all the girls are "sequestered in my home as we speak. Join me and raze it."
|Vampire Lex is not a nice sight.|
Then we leap a year forwards. Reye's gives a speach to the townsfolk that he is subsidising a new housing project and that anyone who lost a girl will qualify. He says he has become friends with the Acostas especially after the loss of their second daughter (which confirms he killed Pilar). He walks through the room and says "your daughters are safe with me."
The priest is giving a sermon on greed. He says it is the blackest of human weaknesses. It creates dangerous, thoughtless humans. No one is safe and only they can save themselves:
Priest: "Taking care of one another - struggling with that burden is when we are at our most divine."
When he finishes he goes outside with a bottle of booze. He sits by a grave stone with "Lex 2005" written on it. "Fuck it we tried" he says as he sits by it and the sun starts to go down. And that brings the "Case of the 400 Dead Girls" to a depressing close.
|The priest knows the truth, though it doesn't help him.|
We then see Lex, although at this point in time he's Alex Gorodetski doorstepping someone as he investigates the missing girl. The woman asks if he is a lawyer and he says look at his car, does she know any lawyer in L.A who drives a "Nova." He questions her and we see the missing girl is called Olivia Honeycutt.
He leaves, narrating to himself, although his monologues are just in his mind right now. He is getting paid for this 800 dollars a day plus expenses. "Olivia Honeycutt's been missing for 5600 dollars now".
Mr. Honeycutt asks him over the phone if he has found anything new. Alex says that before Olivia disappeared there was a Halloween party. He found a photograph. Who was the clown? Mr. Honeycutt says "I don't remember any clowns". No one remembers the clown but he reflected in the mirror clear as day. He manages to get all the photos taken that day assembled but still no one remembers the clown.
|The Curious Case of the Clown at the Party.|
Next we see him hanging upside-down, Bingo is gloating over him along with Halo. The girl in the corner, Olivia, says "the lady took my necklace. Are you here to save me?" Bingo says they have left Olivia's bloody nightshirt in his office and evidence of some other missing girls too. "Not the most subtle frame job in the world but it'll get the job done".
Then Uncle Zero, whose face we never see, says to bring Olivia closer so she can have her first feed. She opens her fanged mouth and her long tongue comes curling out and then:
Alex: "You wanna know the stupidest thing I ever did? I bit first. And that was it for me. I couldn't hear anything. I couldn't think anything".
He bites off her tongue and vamps himself. So Olivia becomes Echo the mute vampire from the first story. Now he's a vampire the others have no use for him and let him go.
|And Alex's fate is sealed.|
Dark, bleak stuff. Unlike the Barrow stories, this and Dead Billy Dead have given us evil practiced by non vampires. Reyes and his men are complete monsters preying on the hopelessness of the town they rule over. With corruption running rampant they are able to rape and kill the "nothing girls" with impugnity and it takes an outsider in the form of Lex, who admittedly is there because he mistakenly believes vampires are responsible, to actually investigate the murders properly. The fact that a priest who has lost his faith could be driven to murder when he hears the confession of one who is part of the girl killing ring pretty much sums up the level of frustrated impotence he's been toiling under as more people turn to him for help as their daughters are taken from them. Lex is another vampire whose managed to suppress his thirst for human blood and just as well considering the raving monster he becomes when he drinks it. The prequel showing that biting a vampire will cause you to become one yourself neatly ties things up with the revelation that Echo is Olivia and the one he bit and explains why she was willing to revive Lex so he'd kill Bingo who's been torturing her ever since. Ben Templesmith's art is excellent as usual and Matt Fraction's writing is tight, funny in places and shows a deft talent for dialogue. Good stuff, but not for the faint of heart.