30 Days of Night: Red Snow (IDW Publishing)

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30days.jpgWorld War II-era soldiers battle the bitter Russian winter, ruthless Nazis, and bloodthirsty vampires in this prequel to the chilling horror franchise 30 Days of Night.

 

 

104 pgs. FC; $17.99

(W / A: Ben Templesmith)

Soviets, Nazis, and vampires (oh my!) collide in Ben Templesmith's first solo effort in the 30 Days of Night mythos, 30 Days of Night: Red Snow. Originally released as a three-issue miniseries, this prequel to the original 30 Days of Night series (in which an Alaskan town is attacked by vampires during the annual month of darkness above the Arctic Circle) was recently collected into paperback form. The result is a story of a supernatural attack eclipsing a human conflict with horrifying consequences.

Templesmith's art is as gritty and atmospheric as ever. His relatively simple line work is accented beautifully by the colors he uses. Every scene is soaked in color, whether it's the harsh blue of his snowy Russian winter, or the intense orange of scenes lit by flame, of both the candle and the gunfire varieties. Here and there, splashes of bright red complement the panels, for obvious reasons. The story's setting, World War II, is quite bloody enough even without the addition of the undead, but vampires seem to have a way of multiplying the carnage, and Templesmith's technique of splattering the page with red ink is a sickeningly realistic way to depict the slaughter.

This time around, Templesmith takes over writing duties from series regular Steve Niles, and does a bang-up job. Each character is solidly written, and Templesmith handily causes the reader to care about (or hate) the main characters, especially given that he does so in short order. He uses some archetypes pretty liberally, but very effectively. The British Corporal, Charlie Keating, is the hero of the story, and the first to realize that the only chance of survival he and the group of Russian soldiers he's travelling with have is to join forces with the Germans they were fighting when the vampires appeared. After a young Russian boy's entire family is devoured by sharp-toothed monsters, Keating takes the child under his wing, risking his life to save the boy.

The boy himself is quite sympathetic. After watching his father and sister as they are messily devoured, he also witnesses his injured mother's slow descent into vampirism, and dutifully decides to kill her before she vamps out. Templesmith's inclusion of this classic vampire-and-zombie trope (kill a loved one before they turn) is a welcome one.

The villains of the story are two-fold. Although Nazis traditionally embody pure evil, the vampires supersede them as the true threat here. Templesmith establishes the Nazis as the worst humanity has to offer; from the soldier who delights in scoring headshot on young girls with his rifle, to the officer who quickly plans a betrayal of his Russian allies against the undead, the Germans are despicable. Templesmith makes the reader anticipate a sticky end for Hitler's henchman, and delivers.

Templesmith depicts the vampires, on the other hand, as a force of nature, appearing out of  the blowing snow with little explanation. "What...What are you?" a German soldier asks in one particularly telling-and chilling-scene.

"Fear," one vampire answers, his voice emitting from a round hole in his face circled with sharp teeth.

"Death," another one echoes. "Same thing for you, really." | 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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