Monday, 9 January 2017

30 Days of Night: Red Snow (#1-3)

"If we're going to survive those...things, we'll need a real plan and leadership" - Charlie Keating

More vampire shenanigans now, with co-creator Ben Templesmith on art and writing duties in this tale of historical bloodsuckers in this 2008 three-parter set during World War 2 on the Eastern front.  You probably know the score by now, but I'll recap:  30 Days of Night refers to the Alaskan town of Barrow, which experiences a month of darkness every winter and one year a group of vampires take advantage of this to nearly wipe out the town in a feeding frenzy.  They were defeated by Sheriff Eben Olemaun who injected himself with vampire blood and killed their leader and driving the rest off before turning to ash by the side of his wife Stella when the sun came up.  Stella Olemaun became an expert in vampire hunting but ended up bringing Eben back who bit and turned her, but the two of them went on to become Barrow's undead protectors.  Stella's research on vampires told us that they can pretty much only be killed by completely destroying the head, burning up or prolonged exposure to U.V. light.  Holy symbols, stakes through the heart etc don't work.  We also found out through her that vampires share a linked conciousness and often seek to "turn" people because their long lives render them lonely and desiring of companionship.  This story, being set long before the events of the original Barrow assault shows us that vampires have been around a long time and have always sought to take advantage of human strife, bloodshed and places lacking in light.

It starts with a German called Klaus who has lost and eye staring out across the snowy landscape.  Another Nazi commiserates with him, and Klaus says it is freezing cold, "vermin" shoot at them constantly and they have to drink the "donkey piss" vodka.  The other Nazi who is called Trabant says the fuhrer will acknowledge them as heroes when all this is over.
Klaus the Nazi
Klaus says Tranbant seems very sure of himself.  Another Nazi SS Officer Hoeppner butts in saying they "swore a scared oath to the fuher".  He does not want to be here where it is dark for two months, he'd rather be fighting at Stalingrad or Moscow but he does what he's told:

Hoeppner: "He has chosen us to liquidate the slavs and Jews.  Kuchlerlebensraum.   For the glory of our fatherland the people must have room to breathe."

Klaus says he hasn't forgotten his oath and he knows there is not a man there who would not die for the Fuhrer. 

They spot a village in the distance and decide it needs "clearing". This will make pushing onto Murmansk easier.  Hoeppner believes that when the Soviets lose access to western aid they "will fold like a deck of cards" because they aren't made for fighting.  They make for the village.

Inside one of the village houses are a couple, a goat and a young son and older daughter.  They reassure each other that if the Germans come they can use the network of escape tunnels they have access too.  The man - Stefan - gives his son a gun and tells him how to use it.
You grow up fast in wartime.
We then join a Russian unit also close by.  In this unit is a Russian speaking Englishman. His name is Charlie Keating but the Russians just call him "Englishman".   Orlov one of the Russians says it is pleasing that Charlie's Russian is so good, he hates having to use English, "much better than that muck in your tongue" he says.

Galchenko interrupts saying Orlov is uncultured and the Russians really do appreciate the British help with their war effort.  He's been show Murmansk where the Nazi's were beaten back and they have mostly been killing off Nazi anti-partisan squads.

Then they come across some bodies ripped to bits.  Galchenko says angrily the Germans are animals who would eat human flesh rather than starve.  They see a panicking Nazi fleeing and the mounted Cossacks go to ride him down. The Naiz tries to sputter out a warning, but before he can he gets his head sliced off.  They spot more Nazis in the distance and give chase.
Vampiric evidence.
At the village the other Nazis have arrived.  They break down a door and a young boy appears.  Hoeppner shoots him in the face.  The father screams he'll kill the Nazis but is killed himself.  They are then to round every man up and shoot them by firing squad while the women and children all in one building. 

A bespectacled Nazi called Baum grabs one of the women and takes her off to rape her as the men are murdered.  After the men are shot, Hoeppner orders the building the women and children burned using their flamethrower.  Klaus looks down in what looks very much like shame.

The three Cossacks chase several Nazi's through a snowfield which starts sucking them down like quicksand and they are all pulled under.  In Stefan's house, the Russians come knocking and he goes out and greets them.  Galchenko praises the "stout Russian worker" who carries on and aids with the fight.  Charlie has more important concerns, do they have any tea?  "You English and your tea" says Galchenko.  A storm is coming so they all go inside.

But the storm brings monsters.  A small girl baring her vampire teeth is leading a group of vampires made up of soldiers from both sides, including the Cossacks.  Inside Stefan's house, Galchenko is suspicious of how they have so much food and drop heavy hints he thinks they might be "war profiteers".  One of the men goes to take a piss outside and when he opens the door he is shot in the face by the Germans.

Stefan's son, Nikolai wants to join the fight.  Orlov tells Charlie they are most like being attacked by a lost SS detachment looking to butcher easy targets.  Charlie isn't encouraged by this. As the Nazis dig in and fire on the house they spot the vampires walking towards them.
Vampires on the march.
Then Baum shoots the girl twice but bullets have no effect. The Russians spot the Cossack vampires in the distance thinking they might be reinforcements.  But the Cossacks are not on horseback.  The Baum stands frozen saying "I shot you" as the vampire bears down on him, and he gets a well deserved chomping by the little girl.

Hoeppner yells as Trabant to clear a path, Trabant says he's trying but "these things east ammunition".  There is a frenzy of flame and bloodshed as the flamethrower unit tries to kill them.   Hoeppner is about to be killed and Charlie shoots the vampire in its head and saves him.
Baum goes down.
When asked why he did that, Charlie says those things will come for them next, they need as many people alive as possible.  Galchenko roars that they will not cooperate with the enemy, then a pair or arms bursts through and grabs one of the Cossacks.  "The Englishman might have a point sir" says one of the soldiers.  Galchenko folds and then Charlie, who speaks German as well calls the Nazis into the house.  There is a rush of confusion as the vampires try to follow and in it Stefan get dragged off by the vampires who have his daughter, before they are beaten back but the house is damaged in the process.

Stefan's daughter shows them the hidden tunnels they can hide in now the house is no longer secure and the Russians and Nazis climb down. Stadler is ordered to set the room on fire as they move down.  Outside the long haired vampire says to the little girl vampire if this is it.  The little girl vampire thinks then says:

Little Girl Vampire: "I think not...Find them.  The village was already half deserted, we will be left hungry if we do not gather the rest.  Let none survive".

Hiding in the tunnels the soldiers try to figure out what attacked them.  Nevsky, a Cossack says he used to hear stories about creatures like them at the Northern Steppes.  Orlov says they are their punishment.  Or maybe the Nazis punishment, he hasn't heard a thankyou for saving them.
Charlie takes charge.
Charlie tells Hoeppner that these "animals" helped save him. There is some awkward introductions then there attention is taken by a soldier who was bitten and is trying to resist vampification.  He fails and his mouth bursts open full of bloody teeth, Stadtler can't use the flamethrower down there so Hoeppner says he's "my responsibilty" and cuts the man's head off with his knife.

Galchenko: "This is hell... this is just like hell... we're all going to die."

Charlie comments he didn't think communists believed in God. Rosa, the two women of the house now says there is a truck close by.  Charlie assures them they'll take them with them. Orlov says he'll have Rosa show him where the ammo is, Nikolai will show Charlie where the truck is.

There is plenty of ammo which Rosa assures Orlov was all going to the Soviet cause.  She is upset about the loss of her husband, Orlov says he cares for nothing except Stalin.  Then the little girl zombie appears. Before he can aim his rifle, she flies at his throat and rips it out. Rosa can only cry as she realises she is next.

Charlie hears her screams and goes back.  He finds the little girl hunched over Rosa's body.  He fires at her and knocks a hole in a fuel tank.  He lights the fuel with a match and sets her on fire.  She runs away and dives into the snow to put herself out. Her "Big Brother" asks her if it is his turn and she says they are playing "nasty games" and she wants them dead like now.
Tragedy strikes for Nikolai
Nikolai followed Charlie and finds him over the body of his mother.  She isn't dead but she'll change.  Nikolai knows what to do and takes Charlie's pistol and shoots her dead off-panel.  He then comes back to Charlie and says:

Nikolai: "I want to kill all of them Englishman.  Those things.  The Germans. All of them".

The vampires are making vampires of what remained of the villagers.  When they are done, they will chase down the soldiers in the tunnels.  The little girl says she "turns them into things of beauty" and likes having new friends to play with.

Back at the base in the tunnels, Charlie chews Hoeppner out for not providing support.  He says he could't care less about the "vermin and their spawn".  When Galchenko discovers Orlov is dead, he says he's the ranking officer.  But Charlie says "like hell" and a poll from the Russians and Germans left show support for Charlie's plan.
A plan is agreed on.
They put the escape plan in action, Stadtler uses his flamer to clear a path. He gets bitten though.  There is a general melee of fighting, and Stadtler begs to be killed before he turns.  Koeppler fires into the flamer fuel tank strapped to his back and there is a huge explosion.

Galchenko says it should buy them some time, but flaming vampires rush out of the conflgration.  One reaches Charlie, but before he can be bitten, Nevsky cuts its head off. They run for the truck and quietly Hoeppner says to Trabant that it will not hold them all.  They need to kill off the Russians. Hoeppner then shoots one to get started.  Trabant stands and looks at him, then kills the other one with them.

Hoeppner leaves him there and goes to commandeer the vehicle.  Charlie has managed to get it started, though it's too late for Tranbant who kills himself before he can be vamped by his attackers.  With Hoeppner on board the truck bursts through the garage wall and squishes several vampires.  Then Hoeppner shoots Galchenko in the head.
Never trust a Nazi.
Then he grabs Nikolai and throws him out.  In a rage Charlie flies at Hoeppner and knocks him out of the truck.  Then Charlie asks Nevsky to turn around and get the boy. Nikolai comes around and immediately is attacked.  Charlie runs to his aid and kills the vampire but sustains a serious chest wound in the process.

He tells Nikolai that Nevsky will see him right and take him to the next town.  It's the end for Charlie and he doesn't want to turn, so he hands his gun to Nikolai and tells him "you know.. what you have to do now."

The vampires congregate and the little girl says they won't get far, "there will be many more before this winter is over anyway."  Hoeppner wakes up and finds himself surrounded by vampires and with only a knife to defend himself with. "Let's get this over with" he says grimly and that brings this installment to a close.
Cue Bolvian Army Ending.
The art is as ever, brilliant.  And Templesmith shows some talent as a writer as well constructing a claustrophobic base-under-siege story where your allies inside are as dangerous as the monsters attacking outside.  We now know that vampires have been around feasting on darkness bound towns and villagers for a long time.  Unlike the people of Barrow after the first attack, their victims haven't been able to use technology to fight back.  And under the fog of war, whole towns can be wiped out; either eaten or vamped and nobody would expect a supernatural reason for it.  One thumbs up I am giving Templesmith as a writer is he makes and effort to mention character's names every now and then and uses props like hats and glasses to differentiate further.  Having read a couple of entries in the series where this doesn't happen and the characters all look the same has turned it into a real pain to write up.  But you can look forward to me moaning about that next month.  Anyway this is another chilly tale of vampires and humans and a great entry in the series overall.  You can buy it as a trade paperback, or find it in Omnibus 2 like I have.


  1. Ooh, this brings back memories. With your encyclopaedic knowledge of all things comicy related you probably already know about this; but just in case check this link.

    Note the writer by the way.

    As for the story in the post I like the look of this. War/Horror crossover is an interesting yet underplayed genre. It's funny but just about all the examples I can think of involve the Eastern Front. Diversion: have you seen a film called 'The Keep'? It's excellent in a weirdly 80s sort of way. As you know I like my military occult stuff . This though seems more of a good old fashioned base under siege tale. That can be hard to do well. We all know it's just going to be people picked off one by one (with at least one of the, being 'turned' and the old 'kill me whilst I'm still me' trope) so the trick is to make us care for the characters. That seems to be working here. They're all different enough for us to see them as individuals and there is something implicitly sympathy inducing about soldiers stuck on the Easter Front. Possibly because of the real life horror that we know such people were considered worthless and expendable even by their own side; and it was a theatre where some of the worst dehumanising atrocities were committed. So there's the 'who are the real monsters?' subtext always lurking in the background.

    There are some nice subtle touches too. It's well researched about certain cultural nuances. The tea drinking Brit may be a bit obvious, but the 'culturny' reference adds a bit to the characterisation of you know about the implications there.

    A creepy vampire child is always nice to see too. And I'm glad she chomped that git.

  2. *shudder*

    WWII East-Front stories hit close to home to me... I mean my grandfather was conscripted by the Nazis to fight there.

    Fortunately he was a miner so he got drafted very late and never reached the front...
    ...Unfortunately some Russian officer decided that the people on that intercepted train should be sent to Siberia as prisoners of war.

  3. @Alan: Ohh Nazi era vampires have cropped up elsewhere? Cool, enjoyed the link. Of course right now it's all nazi zombies that are the in thing. But the 30 Days of Night vampires are so nasty they even force a disparate group to work together, much more interesting than zombies (I'm getting so over zombies and think vampires need to de-Twilight themselves).

    @Malitia: Holy crap, that sucks about your granddad. I've read up and watched quite a few films about the Eastern front and it seems so utterly grim... I hope he was OK in the end.

  4. I never knew him. But I know he survived Siberia, came back 4 years later in an awful shape, half-starved, with severe PTSD symptoms (nobody cared to actually diagnose him), and he died at the age of 52 from cancer and possibly despair over his ruined life.

    He also managed to be on the losing side of our failed revolution in the 50s. After it the communist regime couldn't jail him, as they couldn't find anything against him (representing the workers, who elected you wasn't a crime by any stretch of the definition), but they could very well destroy him financially and break his spirit.

  5. @ malitia

    God, that sounds awful. The Eastern Front has always had an almost mythical quality in Western Europe. We see that in the common war film trope of German soldiers being threatened with a posting there. It's treated though almost like a fantasy location; a geographical boogey man. Hence it so often being used as a setting for stories like this. It's easy to forget in Western Europe that it was all too real for so many people, soldiers and civilians alike.

    There's also that thing that, for us, 1945 was the end. VE Day was a real closure point and after that 'things could only get better' as the country turned it's efforts to creating the promised 'land fit for heroes'. Again it's so easy to forget that in many parts of the world, including Eastern Europe, the nightmare continued for many more decades. Even the classic dates of 1939-1945 is a very UK/US centric view.

    Have you read 'a day in the life of Ivan denisovitch shukov'?. If it's not too traumatic for you it's a very revealing portrait of the siberian camps.

    @ varalys

    Glad you enjoyed the link. Did you notice the writer?

    As for the twilight vampire thing, you seen the Mitchell and Webb sketch where the old school "I vant to suck your bloood" vampires go clubbing and run into the super fast sparkly ones? Very funny.

  6. @Malitia: I can only echo Alan's words. Also he Eastern front is only really getting covered in media very recently, with the Cold War we got fed the narrative that The Brits and the US won the war. I only knew more because I had a very progressive history teacher at A'level who taught us Russian history from Catherine the Great until the aftermath of WW2.

    @Alan: One of the best vampire films I have seen lately is a New Zealand one called "What We Are In The Dark" about a bunch of vampires sharing a house. There is an ancient Nosferatu one who lives in the basement that they never know quite what to do with. Very funny film. I did notice the writer of that comic, but don't know what else he has done..

  7. Gerry Finlay-Day. The VCs and Rogue Trooper chap. :-)

  8. Speaking of zombies (which I know technically we weren't) saw quite a good film recently. "Wyrmwood: Something about a road". It's Australian and whilst it's as clichéd about zombies as it is about Oz it works quite well. It's one of those films that knows exactly what it's about and is comfortable in its own skin. Same with the actors. So it's 90 minutes of pleasant entertainment. Nice also to see an aboriginal character where there's none of the usual clichés.

    It also has a few piss yourself laughing moments. One nice bit involves someone insisting on having a wee at an inopportune moment and against everyone's advice. Much foreseeable mayhem ensues. But I'm a sucker for a well delivered:

    "Now what did we learn?"

  9. D'oh of course he is, I blame the fact too much sleep is making me dim.

    Sounds like an interesting film, will have to check it out. While zombies can bore me a bit I like it when we see things like that outside of the usually US cliches (see also Shaun Of The Dead)

  10. Ooh I fibbed to you. It wasn't M&W who did the vampire sketch, it was Armstrong & Miller

  11. Now you've got sound!

    Shark in the Pool

    My favourite superhero (it's a donkey thing)

    This is pretty funny but also makes a point you could probably write about

    I know you prefer to buy stuff, but here's a little appetiser


    Anyway, hope this is something for if the insomnia hits!

  12. Cheers for those, I am enjoying sound on my PC, I've been catching up on a missed 18 months worth of web videos, like Atop The Fourth Wall (which was one thing that inspired me to blog about comics) and the abriged Yu Gi Oh and Drabonball Z series too.

  13. I've seen a few of those Atop webcasts. I quite like those channel awesome things. Mainly nostalgia critic but some of the related ones. A lot of the time I'm unfamiliar with the source material; but its like how you don't have to like cars to enjoy top gear.

    I prefer your blog though cos you don't wear a hat and you're less shouty.

    Although if you do want to get a hat and do podcasts I will support that.

    Heh, every time you mention dragonball I get the urge to track down the dragonfall 5 books. Loved those as a kid. They also did radio versions of the stories. Hopefully I'll find them eventually. I hope they're as good as I remember.

  14. I don't think the world is ready for my big fat face wibbling on at them, although I could wear a balaclava. Not much I can do about the 50's BBC newsreader voice though. Nah, think I'll stick to anonymousish writing.

    A good webvideo series to check out is Brows Held High which covers art and indie films. And the presenter is very laid back and funny. I'm not sure if he's still on Channel Awesome I know there was "trouble" and some people left but he has them all on a youtbe channel now - another show I need to catch up on.

  15. If it was up to me newscasters would still wear dinner jackets and cocktail dresses on the radio. So I'm perfectly happy with a bit of RP. Now in my head I'm assuming you sound like Nancy Mitford.

    I'll check that out, cheers. That does sound like my cup of Earl Grey.

    I only found out recently about all the politics at Awesome and that Doug is supposedly a bit of an ass. Pity cos I really like his stuff.

    I've been thinking a bit more about stealing your school experiences for a writing project. I know I'm building up quite a few things to be working on, but I actually find that makes me more productive. I watched Easy A again the other night. You seen that? It's a great film anyway but it also seems to present a very authentic view of (American) school life. I think we could probably get something together that would speak to English kids.

    Ooh and I may also need to pick your social media brains. Might have to delve into the reddit swamp for that essay, so will need a few tips. How to use reddit for one.

  16. I do occasionally lapse into an Mancunian accent but generally me and mum sound posh while my sisters sound like guttersnipes. My poor nephew has got a weird mixture of both posh and Mancunian because he spends a lot of time with his granny. It's kindof sweet though.

    You may steal my school experiences, I do wonder if things are different for kids now. I'll have to pick sister 1.0 brains, she's a roamin teacher dealing with EBD kids in the Stockport area so she should have some stories.

    I haven't seen Easy A, but I have seen season 4 of The Wire which deals with the hell of an impoverished public school and is probably my favourite of all five seasons even though it breaks my heart.

    I have to admit I only browse reddit, I'm not registered there. Though I am thinking of doing so so I can post in Bad Women's Anatomy, so maybe I can be more helpful then.

  17. I love your way with language. Guttersnipe is a great word. I'm now imagining your sisters in slightly battered top hats like the artful dodger "Cor blimey, a whole shilling, just for me? Bless you guv'nor". *wipes nose on sleeve*

    Yeah, i only browse reddit, but I want to ask some questions on the incel page (don't go there!) so I presume I have to register. Need to create some sort of burner account I guess. Normally I live on the net as me, but a bit of anonymity might be wise there methinks.

    Right, I'm off to read about Daredevil.