THE STRAIN 1

THE STRAIN #1
Written by David Lapham and Drawn by Mike Huddleston
Published by Dark Horse


Reviewed by Marc Mason

When Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s THE STRAIN novel was first released back in 2009, there was quite a stir amongst the geek set. Del Toro has long been a favored son thanks to his direction of such films as BLADE 2, MIMIC and PAN’S LABYRINTH among others. However, unlike many Hollywood forays into other media, this one was solid. Critical reaction was strong and sales were good. Now that book (which is the first in a trilogy) makes its way to comics, adapted by writer David Lapham. The results are creepy and effective.

The story gets underway with a nifty bit of “ghost story” action, as an older woman tells her grandson a tale that is basically the genesis for modern vampires- the life of a man named Sardu whose tragic existence is only compounded by his turn to bloodlust. From there we move into the here and now, meeting Dr. Ephraim Goodweather as he tries to have a fun custodial weekend with his son. Unfortunately, his superiors at the CDC call and ruin his good time- a flight has landed at JFK and then gone dark. Everyone inside appears to be dead. Ephraim must investigate the cause, determine if terrorists were involved, etc, etc, etc. What he doesn’t know yet is that he faces something far worse than fanatics with a cause- the supernatural is now in New York and ready to spread itself into the human population for good.

Lapham does a nice job of adapting and pacing the story here, engaging the reader, giving the information we need, and setting a properly disturbing mood. Huddleston’s art does the rest- his work is dark and moody, yet he also puts some warmth into the pages with Ephraim and his son. The apocalypse is never meant to be attractive- and it isn’t here- but Huddleston doesn’t push past the reader’s boundaries, either. This is a well-written, nicely drawn book. I’ll read more.




COMPLETE MAJOR BUMMER

THE COMPLETE MAJOR BUMMER
Written by John Arcudi and Drawn by Doug Mahnke
Published by Dark Horse


Reviewed by Marc Mason

Back in the mid-to-late 90s, DC Comics published a number of titles that found spectacularly loyal (but small) audiences. I was partial to YOUNG HEROES IN LOVE and SCARE TACTICS myself, and never wound up sampling MAJOR BUMMER. Having read this massive collection, I can now see that was a mistake on my part. This book is right up my alley.

Lou Martin is a lazy, useless slacker, but in a (stupid) twist of fate, he gets a package in the mail that gives him super powers. He grows to 8-feet tall, gains super strength, and when he concentrates, his intelligence grows. While this gives him massive potential to do something good for the world, that never actually happens, because Lou lacks the drive or caring to get off the couch and stop playing video games.

A number of others are transformed as well, and they’re just as pathetic as Lou. This all begins to make sense when we discover that they have all been given this power by alien college students who were particularly stupid in choosing which earthlings to experiment upon.

Needless to say, MAJOR BUMMER is an absurdist comedy, a comic in which the standard genre tropes don’t exist, unless Arcudi is taking a moment to satirize them. Lou bounces from bad job to bad job, the rest of the cast only gets more insane as the book goes along… when you add the Nazi dinosaur and alien cold virus that comes to life, it’s just gravy. It doesn’t always make sense, and it has one of the most plot-inactive protagonists in the history of comics… how many more ways can I say I liked it? Recommended.