Writers: Steve Niles
Artist: Ben Templesmith
Review by: Eric Stuckart
Bleak and sparse, 30 Days of Night is the type of vampire story that should be told more often. Rather than try too hard by showing a lot of flash and overdoing the action, it broods. It breathes its icy black breath on every page. And the pages are dark as they come. It doesn’t have to try; it gets its point across just by being, making it quite the page turner.
In this colllection, the first three stories of the 30 Days saga are included, the self-titled first story, along with sequels Dark Days and Return to Barrow. With the first story, the duo of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith had something terrifyingly special on their hands. The story is simple. In the quiet Alaskan town of Barrow, a group of vampires comes up with a plan that no vampire has ever tried before. They decide to drop in on the townsfolk during the short period between November 18 and December 17 when the sun doesn’t rise — the titular 30 days of night. Without a sun coming up to make the vampires return to hiding for a month, Barrow becomes a free-for-all, an all-you-can-eat buffet for the vampires. This is the story of how those townsfolk fight back.
And while the Dark Days sags a little bit in the middle due to falling under a slight case of the horror movie stereotypes, Return to Barrow brings the saga up to the high quality of the original. In Dark Days, it follows up on one survivor, Stella Olemaun, who takes up the unenviable task of hunting down the vampires in California. While there, she finds help from some unlikely faces. Not quite as good as the first story, it falls into a few cliché moments that cheapen the mood a bit, but it wasn’t enough to make the story a throwaway. Return to Barrow follows the adventure of an outsider, Brian Kitka, who moves to Barrow as the new sheriff, partly because they need one, and partly to see what really happened to his brother, who died during the first attack. What he finds is beyond his imagination.
The way the three stories bleed into one another makes the omnibus feel more like a really meaty graphic novel rather than a handful of stories, and it only improves its readability. Aside from the aforementioned low parts in the second story, the writing is first rate, sticking to the important things and not really overstaying its welcome in terms of dialogue. While some of the interplay between the characters almost seems like it was just begging to be made into a cheesy B-movie, it never reaches a point that kills the story.
The artwork is even better. Very abstract and dark, the stories have an overwhelming lack of colors that only further evoke the sense of dread and impending danger that the characters are going to encounter. The humans all look a little worn down and sickly, but nothing compared to the way the vampires are portrayed. Looking more like undead wraiths with razors for teeth, this isn’t a glamorous romantic appearance for them. Their ghastly presence throughout the book heightens the tension whenever they’re around, making some of the more tense scenes feel like the humans are surrounded by sharks in open water. It’s that kind of tension that keeps the stakes very high throughout.
This particular omnibus is a little light on extras, only featuring a covers gallery, but that doesn’t take away from the overall quality of the stories found within. Having the three books together in one collection is worth the price alone, and given the way everything wraps up at the end, there’s a certain sense of finality to the story, despite the series having other tales to tell. 30 Days of Night is a story that fans of the supernatural, vampires and the like should be sure to read. My only regret is having not read it sooner.
For more info, idwpublishing.com
Pads and Panels received a copy of the book courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.