30 Days of Night: Red Snow #1 (IDW Publishing)

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30daysArtist and series co-creator Ben Templesmith travels back to World War II-era Russia for this prequel to 30 Days of Night, the tale of vampires run amok during the Arctic winter's month-long nightfall whose movie adaptation will be haunting theatres this Halloween.

 

 

32 pages FC; $3.99

(W&A: Ben Templesmith)

 

The original 30 Days of Night series illuminated a trail for horror comics to take a bite out of the superhero monopoly on the medium. The series, placed in the small northern town of Barrow, Alaska, during an annual month of darkness, told the story of a vampire attack with no hope of safety from the sun. Nowadays, with a movie adaptation lurking (due this October from Sony Pictures), and a number of spinoff series making the rounds, Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith's gutsy vampire yarn is fast becoming a mainstay title for publisher IDW.

 

The latest addition to the 30 Days of Night story is Red Snow, penned and illustrated by Templesmith alone. Set in Russia in 1941, in the midst of the second World War, the limited series follows in the snowy footprints left by its predecessors. The issue opens following a group of Nazi soldiers as they navigate the hostile Russian winter, searching for villages to raze. Meanwhile, a Russian squad accompanied by British Corporal Charlie Keating holes up with a family to warm themselves and eat a meal. Eventually, the two sides find themselves exchanging gunfire, at least until a third group materializes out of the blinding snow for a meal of their own. The issue ends on a cliffhanger, with the two opposing factions of soldiers beginning to realize that something's not quite right.

 

The cover to 30 Days of Night: Red Snow #1 by Ben Templesmith.Templesmith's artwork has always lent itself well to the horror genre. His sketchy style, colored with splattered watercolors creates a moody, messy atmosphere. He uses contrast well, juxtaposing the dimness of the wintery night with bright fire-lit scenes and blood spatters that squirt off the page. After cutting (or sharpening?) his writing teeth on the creator-owned series Gentleman Corpse, his writing is tight and well-researched, with natural dialogue and excellent pacing. There are quite a few sequences with no dialogue at all; he lets the cinematic quality of the story speak for itself. The best moments are when he hints at the coming vampiric threat; when the Russian soldiers find mutilated corpses and assume that the Germans have resorted to cannibalism, or when a Nazi sniper scores two headshots on what he thinks is a young Russian girl, only to see the body stagger back to its feet and keep walking.

 

Templesmith's characterizations are top-notch as well. The vampires maintain an aura of mystery; only occasionally are they seen, and even then, usually only in glimpses. The few clear images of them are delightfully creepy. There are a few instances of obvious set-ups. Of course, the Nazi sniper with a penchant for gleefully raping and murdering Russian women will get his comeuppance. But what of the German who hesitantly questions the command to shoot Russian women and children in the back? Or the young Russian lad eager to prove his worth in battle? Templesmith does an excellent job of making the reader care about his characters, whether you want to see them live through the promised melee, or torn to shreds by the murderous, toothy undead.

 

Overall, the first issue of Red Snow is an excellent beginning of what looks like a worthy addition to the 30 Days of Night narrative. Be sure to pick it up at your local shop. | Jared Vandergriff

Click here to read a 5-page preview of 30 Days of Night: Red Snow #1 courtesy of IDW Publishing, and click here for the official 30 Days of Night movie site from Sony Pictures.

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