30 Days of Night

30 Day of Night by Steve Niles is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel that is set up on an interesting premise. Once I started reading it, I wondered why I hadn't read any other vampire stories set in Alaska, where the night can be a month long. Too cold, I'm guessing? But if you're a vampire it seems like a no brainer. Plenty of time to do what they want, and the only thing that would hold them back would be the meager size of the population.

The isolation inherent in any story set in the tundra worked well with the horror aspects of the novel. Also, the illustrations by Ben Templesmith, really brought the town of Barrow alive on the page... (or dead on the page might be the better word?).

The gore in this graphic novel, and yes there is plenty, is colored with muted smears of red that give the impression of violence without showing us every tendon and bone. I appreciated this because it created a distinct visual, somewhat blurry, feel for the novel. Even characters are rarely seen in focus, and a few times I had to backtrack to decipher who I was looking at.

This might not have been a problem if the story were a bit stronger, but alas, there wasn't any emotion on the page. Before I get into this too heavily I want to say that I've read less than a handful of graphic novels so my expectations might be too high for the medium and genre.

When I say that there wasn't any emotion, I'm referring to the lack of characters to care about. A few attempts were made between the husband and wife, but I didn't get to spend enough time with them to really connect with their struggle. The mother and son in New Orleans was another stab at emotions that fell flat. Really, I wished that the pages we spent with them were instead turned toward the people of Barrow so we could care about and understand their need for survival. Everyone wants to survive (for the most part), but it's the specifics that make us human. That's what this story lacked for me, specifics.

I did enjoy the become-the-monster to beat-the-monster aspect, but the way in which the protagonist arrives at his decision seems foolhardy at best. The previous member of the town who was infected turned into an enemy very fast so I didn't know why the husband didn't turn in a likewise manner. What made him special? His love for his wife? Okay, but that gets me wondering about the first guy. Who was he? Nobody loved him?

You see? If the devil is in the details then a few sharp lines of clarity would have gone a long way toward making this a truly terrifying tale. Instead we have a fun story with beautiful artwork, but ultimately it is a story that lacks any real connections.