Friday, 17 February 2017

30 Days Of Night: Beyond Barrow (#1-3)

"Poor stupid bastards.  I almost feel sorry for them"  - John Ikos.

This is going to be the last visit to the world of 30 Days of Night (I have sadly had to skip the Eben and Stella mini due to the art making it impossible to tell who was who half the time) at least those collected in the two omnibuses.  In case you've missed any of my other looks at the various 30 Days of Night miniseries, the titular "30 Days of Night" are those experienced by the Alaskan town of Barrow when there is no sun for a month in winter.  Some enterprising vampires took it upon themselves to go and feed off the townsfolk and many of the inhabitants were killed.  The town sheriff Eben Olemaun injected himself with vampire blood and kept his sanity long enough to kill the head vampire and frighten the rest off.  He died sitting with his wife Stella when the sun finally came up.  Stella wrote a book about the incident called 30 Days of Night and became a veteran vampire hunter.  But she missed Eben too much and through a blood ritual bought him back and he promptly turned her into a vampire. However both kept their humanity and when vampires tried to attack Barrow again, they wiped the vampires out and promised to watch over the town for the foreseeable future.  We have also seen vampires in Mexico, on the Eastern Front in World War 2 and witnessed the crazed experiments of a vampire fetishist.  This final mini of omnibus two returns to Barrow many years after the last attack and is written by series co-creator Steve Niles with art by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz.

It begins... with tiny red lettering on black backgrounds which I need a flippin' torch to read, dammit!  But anyway, start again.  It begins.. with a potted history of Barrow. That the three things the town is used to are below zero temperatures, living in darkness and vampire attacks.

Narrator: "For creatures who fear the light and thirst for blood, Barrow and the entire Artic circle are heaven on Earth.  Hell on Earth if you are human."

We a small group of vampires walking through the snow towards the town.   The woman says they should not be here, that the townspeople are prepared and the vampire elders have forbade attacks on the town.  The leader says they will "invade, feed and then leave. Nobody, not even our own will be the wiser".
Something worse than vampires appears.
One of the others points to a plane coming in to land, the leader says "more blood for us".  They start moving again when suddenly they all sense something ahead of them that alarms them.  Then suddenly they are surrounded by something that rips them apart leaving nothing behind but a stripped skeleton.

In Barrow Bob Huey, the man who has run the Barrow airport for years has let in a plane he shouldn't have, it should be closed to air traffic during the dark month.  But he needed the cash and the offer was too good to pass up.  The passengers are Richard Denning, a billioniare and self-proclaimed adventurer who has read that vampires live near Barrow. His wife Kelly who showed him Stella Olemaun's book and got him bitten by the vampire hunting bug. Keri their daughter who "would rather be anywhere else in the world."

Chris Miller and his latest girlfriend Tina who are along for the adventure are also part of the expediion. So is Nat Gilmore who works for Richard and has no choice and finally Scott Powell, Richard's friend who likes guns and photography and wants to be the first human to take a photo of a vampire - dead or alive.
Every man has his price.
Richard hands over the bribe to Bob for letting him land.  Bob asks if he needs any transportation while he is in town.  Richard says he doesn't plan on spending much time in Barrow and he brought his own transport.  The plane unloads a jeep with caterpiller tracks instead of wheels, he bought it from the manufacturers who make them for the Alaskan National Guard and has upgraded it with stereo, video decks and a full bar. 

Bob: "Folks around here are lucky if we can get chains on our tyres or run-down snowcat."

Richard: "Well folks round here should invest their money better".

Bob says he'll hide the plane but if anyone asks he'll tell them they landed without permission and he turned the runway lights on so "you wouldn't splatter yourself all over Barrow".  Richards says he'll back him up if they meet anyone in town.

Bob panics, he thought they weren't going into town. Richard casually says they'll tell his lie for him and his party depart leaving Bob with a handful of cash wondering if it was worth it, "even he knows deep down, if these jackasses go anywhere but Barrow they'll probably wind up dead."

Richard says to his party that he doesn't care if they do go into Barrow, it's too well defended, the real action will be outside its walls. His wife says she and Keri want to photograph Eben's grave and the remains of the Ikos diner.  Keri sulkily says she doesn't want to take any pictures.   Her mum wants to see all the sights because if they find a vampire she and Richard are going to write a book.

They drive to the town gate and are stopped by armed men.  Richard says they just want to see the sights then they'll be on their way.  To come into Barrow they have to show identification, and their teeth.  Once inside they find the graveyard and Richard, Kelly and an unenthused Keri pose in front of Eben's grave for a photo. 
A tacky photo.
Then "out of nowhere" Marcus Kitka now seventeen, who was a kid when the last major attack happened, punches Richard saying "Get out of my town you goulish sons of bitches!" John Ikos who survived the first ever Barrow attack pulls Marcus away saying the visitors better take care of themselves, "this ain't Disneyland."  Richard mumbles they read the book, "don't worry old man.  We can handle ourselves". They drive off.

Marcus Kitka's father Brian is the sheriff of Barrow.  He and Marcus get along but they weren't as close as they were before the first attack the lived through that Marcus still has nighmares about. Defending Barrow has become Brian's year round job and it takes him away from Marcus who goes to see John Ikos about something bothering him about the newcomers.

He tells John he can't stop thinking about them, "that daughter or the jackass you punched?" queries John.  Marcus wants to know why they let them go out there.  John says it isn't their business and they wouldn't listen anyway.  Marcus says they get killed:

John: "If the cold don't, somethin' else is bound to come along.  It's called thinning the herd or natural selection".

Marcus says that's cynical and John says you get that way when you've fought to live as many times as he has.  Marcus says he's the perfect person to help them then, but John refuses saying he can't help people who don't want help.  But he gives in and says they'll check as far as "Tartok Ridge" but if they aren't in sight from there they are as good as dead.  They pick up some flash grenades and head on out.
The party camp out.
The vampire hunting party have made camp, a tent extended from the end of the jeep.  Inside they are all chatting, apart from Keri who has stayed up in the jeep portion of camp. Her mother says she is such a curmudgeon and cackles that she was just like that at her age. Keri ignores her and fiddles with her phone which has no signal.  So she decides to watch a horror movie called "Suicide Stripper 2" to cheer herself up. She lights up a cigarette and rolls the windown down a little and suddenly notices the campsite is surrounded by what looks like rocks.

Meanwhile John and Marcus are walking through the snow.  John is telling him about a man called John Franklin who tried mapping the Artic, he never returned from an expedition and his body was found frozen and stripped of flesh.  They could tell by the scratches on the bones themselves. Even his brain had been cleaned out. Marcus asks what the point of this gory story about people disappearing from where they are currently walking.  John just asks him how good he is with a gun these days.

Marcus: "One,  Yes I can still shoot. Two.  You are seriously freaking me out!"

Back at the camp, everyone is getting a bit tipsy.  Keri demands they take and look outside, so Chris peeks through the tent flaps and sees the same strange "rocks" surrounding them.  "They weren't there when we drove in and set up" says Richard suddenly serious.
Spooky story time.
Kelly says it must me some eskimo curse.  Keri tells her they don't call themselves Eskimos anymore, it was a collective term for the various peoples who live above the Artic like the Inuit and Yupik.  So Eskimo is out like Indian is for Native Amercians. Kelly says "we don't call them Indians because General Custard killed them all, thank God".  Keri says it's "Custer" and actually the Native Americans killed him, "rightfully so, I might add."

"Well look who's paying attention in class" says Richard. "Idiots" mutters Keri.  Then Chris looks out again and says the stones have gone.  Then suddenly he's wrenched out in a flurry of blood.  Richard, Kelly and Keri manage to get into the jeep as the tent is attacked and the others sliced to pieces.  The jeep drives through the black bodied beings who assaulted them and gets free.  "Richard,  I don't think these are the vampires from the book" says Kelly. 
The party are attacked.
As they drive, Kelly asks if Richard thinks the others are still alive.  Richard says he hopes not.  We cut to the ruined camp.  One of the men is still alive, though badly wounded.  He pleads with the figure standing over him to not hurt him.  His screams are heard by Marcus and John.  John tells Marcus that the party have fallen prey to the "unnuar amarok", all the disappearances round these parts are down to them. "Just keep them in front of you" instructs John "and remember one thing - nothing lives without a head."

Richard's panicked driving has got them lost.  The GPS system isn't responding and neither are the radio or satellite phone.  They are flying blind.  Richard says if they keep driving they should hit something soon. He and Keri bicker as she accuses him of being the idiot who wanted to go vampire hunting in Alaska.  Richard ungallantly says it was her mother's idea. Then they see a cave and they drive into it to hide.

Keri doesn't think they should be stopping. Richard says they'll conserve fuel, build a fire and maybe someone will find them in the daylight.  But Keri points out it won't be daylight for thirteen more days.  Then they notice the cave has a funny smell and is warm. Richard says it's probably an underground spring. They have supplies, they can hold out for a while. 
The "vampires" torture their prey.
Then they hear Chris screaming.  They look to where it is coming from and see him being held down and having his skin and flesh ripped off while still alive by black humanoids with almost lamprey mouths and no eyes or noses.  "We walked right into their lair" whispers Keri, "well mom, you got your vampires".  They rip and tear Chris who finally dies as they completely rip the meat from his bones and consume it.

"That noise is horrible!" exclaims Kelly stupidly loudly and the vampires turn and realise they have company.  Richard fires a flare gun at them as they approach. The vampires grab all three of them but Keri manages to struggle free though her clothes are ripped off in the process.  Her parents are killed and she stands frozen in a pond of blood.  One of them comes close and sniffs her.  Things look bad for her, then John shoots it in the head.
John Ikos to the rescue.
Then he blasts the others closest to her. He tells Marcus to get her out of there then tosses his belt of flash grenades at the advancing group of vampires and ignites it from a distance with a shot from his pistol, there is an almighty Fooom. Marcus drapes his coat round Keri and apologises for punching her dad.  When she asks for them he has to tell her they didn't make it out.

He takes her back to John's cabin where he is waiting for them.   Keri asks him what those things really were.  John says that some folks believe they are vampires who came and settled here a long time ago.  Their bodies adapted to the extreme weather conditions and over the centuries became a different species altogether.  Keri thanks him for killing them.

John: "Dead? I doubt they're all dead. They're survivors like us."

The story then comes to a close with the narrator saying that long ago, over many years, many braved the journey to search for new lands. And only a few ever returned. "And as the legend goes, some of the weary travellers stayed behind and became part of the land.  And part of the terror".  The end.
Only Keri survives.
This is a worthy note to end my looks at the 30 Days of Night series.  Human's can fight vampires and even win small victories, but vampires both ancient and modern still plague the world and Barrow will probably never be totally safe despite the ban the modern vampires are under from going there and the protection of Eben and Stella. The ancient vampires depicted here are horrifying blank faced monsters.  Acting on sadistic instinct there is no reasoning with them just death by dismemberment while you are still alive. Despite the generally unpleasant nature of the doomed hunting party (apart from Keri), and their monumental stupidity they didn't deserve to die the way they did.  John Ikos once again shows what a badass he is at killing vampires and the most likeable "Final Girl" escapes thanks to his efforts.  Bill Sienkiewicz's art is superb.  From frosty portraiture to the feeding of the vampires degenerating into thick black chaotic line work he depicts the freezing cold horror expertly.  His layouts especially capture the frenzy of the ancient vampire attacks.  I believe recently Steve Niles has started the 30 Days of Night's franchise up again after a break of some years and I may be seeking them out at some point in the future.  But for now this is the capstone on what has been a very high quality run of miniseries. Both omnibuses are well worth your expenditure if you enjoy tales of real, non-sparkling vampires.


  1. At the risk of seeming nerdy, that's a tracked Hummer not a Jeep (although caterpillar Jeeps are also fairly common)

  2. As to the story itself, it's weird, I can't decide whether I really like the artworks or I really don't! Here's the thing, if I see it in the vein of that arkham asylum style painted artwork that was quite in vogue for a bit the. It seems really stylish and a nice change from the standard black outlined comic art. But it also reminds me of old Dr Who annuals (and similar TV based books) where the artists were obviously just drawing over stock photos and usually having to alter the facial features so they weren't quite right (I was too young to understand that they hadn't licences the visual rights to the secondary characters). Ah well, I'll just nah it in a shrodingers basis.

    As for the narrative, I was a bit excited when the hunt was introduced. I thought we might get a bit of the old tables turned most dangerous game. Overall though this just seemed a bit standard 'Bunch of characters wander into situation they're not as prepared for as they think. Hubris ensues'. Even the 'final survivor gets rescued by the person who's warning they ignored' seems a bit of a cliche.

    Hmm, this is making me seem like a right grumpy bollocks. Thing is, I actually enjoyed the story. It might be riddled with common tropes but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's a reason we keep coming back to some ideas. They're just entertaining. Part of the fun of these is watching the characters get eaten in order of assholeness.

    We've had most of the common monster things now: attempts at weaponising, bigger badder version, hybrid etc. so I wonder what's next for Barrow?

    Heh, before you eduacated me on media I just used to chomp popcorn and go 'cool, it's got a seaplane in it!' so technically all this over analysis is your fault ;-)

  3. Bill Sienkiewicz pretty much pioneered the use of painted art in comics in the mid 1980's. This is actually fairly restrained for him, he tends to use collage and photographs and mixed media to create some pretty damn impressive pages. One day I'll do his "Stray Toasters" self written and painted book and blow peoples mindswith the weirdness of it all.

    It is a fairly standard troperriffic story but fits well with whats already been established about Barrow and the vampires relation to it. It sort of fitted for me to have my last look at 30 Days of Night (for now?) be the reveal of a much older, much more deadly form of vampire in the area that remains shrouded in mystery.

    I am glad I have you overanalysing stuff now. Mwahahahaha! I was trying to explain to my sister the other day how it was impossible for me to enjoy even the most popcorn of media without "Media Studies" brain taking over, no matter how tightly I locked it in an internal box :D

  4. So my thoughts while reading:

    - „It begins... with tiny red lettering on black backgrounds which I need a flippin' torch to read, dammit!”

    Well, this brings back memories… not relevant ones mind you, but one of my prized possessions from my more active tabletop gaming days (90s) is a photocopied 2nd Edition Changeling: The Dreaming rulebook. Have you ever tried to read from a black and white copy of an originally full color book? It's “fun”.

    - „Keri their daughter who "would rather be anywhere else in the world."”

    So only sane person on the team.

    - „Richard: "Well folks round here should invest their money better".”

    Congrats. I hate him already. :3

    - “Her mum wants to see all the sights because if they find a vampire she and Richard are going to write a book.”

    Rich asshole misses point. This pointlessness will probably turn out pointedly more pointy than expected.

    - “"Richard, I don't think these are the vampires from the book" says Kelly.”

    And this book's Captain Obvious Award goes to…

    YEY! THEY DIED! Except the one with half a brain. :D I actually half expected her to die first. (Because that's a common trope in these type of stories too.)

  5. Keri became invincible as soon as she corrected her horrible mother over using the term eskimo. That kind of sensibleness always survives.

  6. "This pointlessness will probably turn out pointedly more pointy than expected."

    I'll probably be stealing that if that's ok?

    For years after I finished the roadie thing I still had problems enjoying gigs as a 'punter'. I'd always be checking out the PA and lighting rig and working out the budget. Now, thanks to your pernicious influence, I'm like that with all media. I'd always had a bit of a tvtropes thing going on, but you've especially got me thinking about stuff like representation. It is interesting though. I think it actually adds to the enjoyment. There's a story attributed to Feynman (it may well be true though) about when someone asked how he could enjoy a sunset once science had taken all of the wonder out of it. He said he could still appreciate it on a purely aesthetic level but contemplating all about how the sun came into existence, what light was, and how it interacted with the atmosphere, just added a whole extra level of amazement and appreciation. I had a similar thing when my arty friends started telling me about both the practical aspects of painting but also some of the 'tropes' in art. Stuff like how certain symbolism in a painting indicates that a subject was dead by the time it was painted for example (although that thing about horses hooves in statues turned out to be a myth).

    That collage/rotoscope/painting approach to comic art is great when it's well done. As is so often the case though the imitators jumping on the bandwagon can spoil that. Bit like how we suddenly had loads of Bisley clones.

    I was thinking about the standard 'asshole victim' approach to who snuffs it the other day cos we were watching the Poseidon Adventure ("He doesn't even say Mass!"). Now people say the film ending to The Mist was very courageous because the 'heroes' nearly all die but the assholes all turn out to have survived (and it is a great ending) but what's interesting is that, unlike the film, in the book of Poseidon Adventure, not only do the people who ignore the hero survive, they're the first to be rescued.

    Did you know the ending of deep blue sea (or whatever it's called, the shark film) was changed? Originally it was classic black guy dies. But the test audience liked him but hated the blond 'heroine' so she got chomped instead.

  7. @Alan

    Sure. Steal it if you want it.

    I admit I might have been a bit more tipsy while writing that than it was proper at that early hour. ^^;

  8. Talking of finding new ways to enjoy a medium after being involved in it yourself, did either of you see "Peter Pan Goes Wrong" which was on over Xmas? Having spent the best part of a decade working backstage in my local theatre I got such a kick at seeing all the various things that could happen during a production get played out all in one show. But that just show my love of meta at work as well as alove of extreme slapstick.

  9. Heh. I just put something on Mammoth the other day about that (the Tinkerbell thread). Proper wet yourself laughing stuff. I can see how it would be even more funny for you with your experience.

    So technically brilliant to get everything go 'wrong' so perfectly. And I just loved the girl terrified with stage fright.

  10. "He's the boy who never grew up, not the man who couldn't keep it in his pants!"

  11. The same company also do "the play that goes wrong" which is a classic country house murder mystery in the same vein. Including a dead body that can't get comfy and a leading lady who's knocked unconscious in the first two minutes.

  12. I once had an accident with a dry ice machine that caused so much dry ice to come out it totally obscured the people on stage singing a tender ballad. In my defence M'lud I was only following the orders of my stage manager who didn't want any left over dry ice to have to dispose of. Still it was pretty funny seeing the same thing happen in Peter Pan Goes Wrong only with a smoke machine instead.

    And yeah, the way they got everything to go "wrong" with perfect timing was pure genius. The bit towards the end where the stage is being rotated non-stop and three scenarios are playing out just had my utmost respect for pulling it off.

  13. As well as just the technical brilliance of the farcical decent into disaster I loved all the little backstory bits. The person only getting the part because of their family contacts, the guy insisting it was proper theatre not pantomime and the poor bloke relegated to playing the crocodile (Aww). I suppose you'll recognise that too.

    I did some radio stuff once and it was so Alan Partridge (in terms of the backstage politics) it was unbelievable. But it's like the Spinal Tap thing, many a true word spoken in jest.

  14. Having spent more than enough of my life working during panto season, the "Actor" taking it very very seriously was always a treat. We played host to a lot of kds shows as well, I vividly recall some very sad and grouchy Mr.Men being played by RADA students trying to get their Equity cards. And we also had performances by amateur productions, the "Friends of Buxton Opera House" were the bitchiest about who got the best parts by being the highest donators etc. Oh happy days *twitch*