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30 DAYS OF NIGHT
By STEVE NILES & BEN TEMPLESMITH (IDW Publishing; 2003) 

Please understand: I like this heavily influential, award-winning graphic novel a fair amount, but donít love it.  Put another way, I feel itís a good book, but not a great one. 

      Such distinctions are important when discussing 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, which has received a myriad of overenthusiastic notices since its 2003 inception as a three-part comic series.  Itís since been spun off many times over (most recently in the í07 movie adaptation, which is set to be sequalized).  Iíll admit my less-than-ecstatic reaction may be due to the fact that itís taken me a while to get around to reading the thing; in the meantime Iíve been bombarded with the overpowering buzz that made it out to be the greatest thing to happen in the comics medium...ever.

      Like I said, though, itís a good, satisfying tale of vampire mayhem.  It has an intriguing premise positing that a band of centuries-old vamps take up residence in a small Alaskan town where the night lasts thirty days, thus affording them a prime opportunity to wreak bloody havoc without worrying about sunlight spoiling their fun.  As one bloodsucker opines: ďI donít know why we never thought of it (before)Ē.

      The story is tightly wound and action-packed, the setting compelling and appropriately claustrophobic, and the artwork by Ben Templesmith rendered in arrestingly off-kilter fashion, with stark, concentrated splashes of color amidst a desolate nighttime landscape.  Without question, this is a sleek, slick and skilled piece of work all around.

      But getting back to the deafening buzz surrounding the project, let me take this opportunity to puzzle over Clive Barkerís laudatory introduction, which makes me wonder if he even read the same book.  Barker raves about how the writing evokes ďa cold, joyless world in which appetite can never be sated, and love gives no comfort, even in the bright light of day.  Especially then.Ē

      Huh?  In most respects 30 DAYS OF NIGHT is an utterly conventional account of good guys (mortals) vs. bad guys (vampires)--and I wouldnít dare reveal which side wins out.  Thereís even the expected heroic sacrifice in the final pages--wherein one of the mortals injects himself with vampire blood but somehow remains a good guy--which does seem to negate Barkerís promise of a ďBitter, Bitter end

      Bottom line: this graphic novel is good, fast, gory fun.  But a groundbreaking masterpiece itís not.
 


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