Life Sucks (:01 First Second)

lifesucks-header.jpgThe romanticized trappings of Anne Rice are traded for the soul-deadening world of working retail in this inventive take on the vampire mythos.

 

 

186 pgs. Full Color; $19.95

(W: Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria; A: Warren Pleece)

 

In Life Sucks, writers Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria present an inventive take on the established vampire mythos we’ve become accustomed to via popular culture. This story takes the vampires out of the world of Anne Rice and transposes them into the world of Clerks. All the "rules" generally associated with vampires are still in place (sunlight and mirrors are bad; drinking blood is good), but Abel and Soria have removed the romanticized trappings of most vampire tales and moved the undead to a more realistic world that readers will be familiar with.

The cover to Life Sucks by Warren Pleece. Click for a larger image.The story hinges on the idea that vampires are just like us and, despite being immortal, would still have to work menial jobs to earn money for rent. The main character Dave is slave to his master Radu, the vampire who turned him when he applied for a job at his convenience store. Radu is a vampire from the old country, but when he meets with his fellow immortals in his elaborate castle, they hang out in the wood-paneled basement smoking cigars and playing poker. By a similar token, Dave’s best friends are two vampires who work in a copy shop and a diner, as well as his human roommate.

This exploration of the humdrum reality of everlasting life is an interesting concept, but beyond that there isn’t much to the book. All of these details are really just the world the story is set in, while the plot itself is a rather typical "teen movie" romance and thus is never that particularly interesting. The story follows two guys who are going after the same girl; the twist is that it just so happens the two guys are vampires.

The characters are relatable but rather familiar tropes. Wes, a psychotic vampire surfer dude, is the antagonist, tormenting Dave and standing in the way of Dave making a move on Rosa, the cute goth girl that Dave has his eye on. But Wes’s attraction to Rosa is more because he can’t stand to see Dave happy than out of general interest. Imagine the stereotypical "bully" from any teen comedy, add in super-strength and a thirst for blood, and that’s Wes. No effort is ever made to make him dynamic beyond the stereotype, and the same is true of Dave (slacker loser type) and Rosa (goth girl type) as well.

At other times both Dave and Rosa act in manners that are logically inconsistent with their established characters, simply because they must act that way in order for the plot to continue. Rosa’s initial interest in the uncouth surfer Wes doesn’t make any sense, but because it is necessary move the story forward, she goes out on a few dates with him. Similarly, Dave puts up with Wes’s rude comments throughout the entire book for no reason other than that it artificially creates conflict.

The art is also decent enough but not outstanding. Pleece’s skills as an artist were recently highlighted to great effect in Incognegro, but here the work is just bland. It was most likely a purposeful choice for the art to be stiff rather than energetic, as that is fitting with the atmosphere the story is creating. But the plodding page layouts packed with panel after panel of talking heads do little to engage the audience. There are a few moments of excitement where Pleece is allowed to shine, such as a full-page gag illustration early on in the story, showing the aftermath of Dave’s run-in at the convenience store with a thief. Sadly, however, the story doesn’t allow him much material to work with.

Interior art from Life Sucks by Warren Pleece. Click for a larger image.Perhaps worst of all, in the end the story just sort of stops. After Rosa and Dave all-too-coincidentally bump into Wes while he is out on a date with two other girls, Rosa calls it quits with him. Then, when she discovers that Dave is a vampire, she angrily confronts him about keeping this secret from her. The climax comes when both characters attend a party thrown by Wes, each with a different agenda. The party seems to be where things will finally come to a head, but what actually happens just changes the shape of the conflict. Then after the party ends, the final five pages are set two months later, and the conflict between Wes and Dave has been resolved off-panel by Dave’s boss Radu, as is explained to us in some clunky expositional dialogue. Wes himself, the antagonist of the story, doesn’t even appear in these final five pages, and Rosa and Dave don’t interact with each other at all.

Life Sucks, then, is a book that had a promising idea but didn’t do enough with it to set it apart from other vampire fare, instead miring down the interesting setting by attaching it to a typical teen romance. The book could work very well for young adult audiences, but more mature readers are sure to be disappointed in the illogical character developments and anti-climactic conclusion. In the end, it is engaging enough while you’re actually reading it but utterly forgettable once you’ve finished. | Steve Higgins

For more information and a 14-page excerpt, visit http://www.firstsecondbooks.com/lifeSucks.html!

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