Saturday, January 29, 2005

Lurkers - How Often Are You Surprised By the Quality of a Writer's Work?

I remember Steve Niles from awhile back, when he was writing Hellspawn and Spawn: The Dark Ages.

I did not like those books very much.

Like, not at all.

So when I heard of "30 Days of Night," one of the ultimate "high concept" comic ideas of all time (probably THE ultimate high concept idea was League of Extraordinary Gentleman), about vampires attacking an Alaskan town during the month of perpetual darkness, I was impressed, but I will be honest. I chalked it up to the old "even a blind squirrel will find an acorn from time to time."

However, I am now willing to admit that I was wrong in my estimation of Niles' writing ability, as his later projects have all been pretty good (although, off the top of my head, I cannot recall an example of someone trying to live off one project as much as this. I mean, TWO sequels and an anthology?!? Yikes). The books that I have liked the best from Niles since then have been the ones that have nothing to do with 30 Days of Night, specifically the Cal McDonald series of books.

In addition, another book I enjoyed is the "You Decide - 2005" book for this entry, which is Lurkers, a mini-series written by Niles and drawn by Hector Casanova.

The series opens up very interestingly, with a murder victim having been thrown from a building. The cops show up, and there is a lineup scene that is just hilarious, when they lineup all the employees from the building. And one of them...well, let's just say that he stands out. It is an amusing opening to the series (and Casanova shows he can do a nice job drawing distinct looking people, even in a lineup scene where the characters will not appear again), and it distracts you from the real intention of the series - which is Zombies.

The lead character, LAPD detective Jack Dietz, is a pretty hard-boiled guy, a stark contrast from the much easier going Cal McDonald. Niles does a good job of showing how a normal cop would handle knowing that there's a flesh-eating zombie on the loose. Basically, imagine an episode of NYPD Blue, where Sipowitz has to deal with a flesh-eating zombie. That's the basic tone of this series, and it is handled well.

I have read the first three issues, and I suppose the only real concern I have is that, for $3.99 an issue, I suppose I would have expected a little more story in each book. Each issue does come with a fairly substantial prose horror story, but A. It has nothing to do with the story in the book and B. It is not written by Niles, so I did not even really bother reading them. Does anyone?

In addition, there is this one scene in the book, a two-page spread, where there is a significant detail that is obscured by the fold in the middle of the page. I thought that was pretty weak, to be honest. I mean, you would think someone would notice that, right?

In any event, I was pretty impressed by Casanova's art, and the character of Dietz was strong enough to carry the book (there's an allusion to a painkiller addiction that is just peripheral to the story that I liked...depth without going overboard with it), so I would recommend this series to others.

So...does anyone here read the prose stories in the IDW books?


Blogger Greg said...

I haven't read Lurkers, so I'll answer your last question. I read the prose story at the end of Containment #1, and it wasn't very good. Boring vampire stuff, with a demon who's a priest (or bishop, maybe) and not much else. Although, if I read it right, lots of babies get squished, which is different. I don't mind the prose, even though I don't read them, it's something different in comic books.

1/29/2005 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

While I like the idea, I have to admit I haven't read a single one of the prose pieces yet, and in both Lurkers and Secret Skull, was always annoyed by their presence. As opposed to, you know, a bit more of the comic I paid $3.99 for!

Secret Skull was the first Niles work I'd ever read - sucked in by the Meeeednight Pulp imprint - and, while interesting, Lurkers is a much stronger book, both in the writing and the art. Hoping for to stronger ending this time, though.

1/29/2005 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"As opposed to, you know, a bit more of the comic I paid $3.99 for!"

Yeah, that high price point is really hard for them to live up to, isn't it?

1/29/2005 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Michael May said...

I love the IDEA of having prose in the back of the comics, but honestly, I haven't read any of them, even when I've known the person writing them. After the quick pace of reading a comic, I find it hard to slow down and read several pages of prose in the same book.

But I do know a couple of the authors, so I need to put some comics in the bathroom and read the prose stories there.

1/29/2005 08:22:00 PM  

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