In Review: Dark Red #1

A vampire in modern day America off the highway is a dark delight.

The covers: Two covers to pick up if you can’t enough of this twisted take on bloodsuckers. The Regular cover is by Aaron Campbell and has lead character Chip Ipswich moping the floors of the convenience store he works at. He’s deathly pale and his eyes are yellow. He’s wearing a red shirt for his job and that also happens to be the color he’s mopping into the floor, and dripping on his lips. As he looks up at the reader he’s before right wing bumper stickers and MAGA hats. This begs the question can a vampire exist in a red state? Very cool. The Variant cover is by Larry Stroman and is very red. It features several image that meld together: vampires screaming, showing their fangs, a full figured vampire covered in Nazi tattoos, the Flag of the Confederate States spiraling about, and the profile of a young man wearing a baseball hat that sports the same flag. This is not subtle and I want to know what this book’s all about! Overall grades: Both A 

The story: Off the highway at Fall’s End is a Buffalo Jump filling station that’s open twenty-four hours. Employee Charles “Chip” Ipswich is mopping the floors when a semi pulls in driven by Camden Rickenbaugh with his buddy Stu in the co-pilot’s seat. Cam is hammered and starts taking smack with Chip, asking him after he’s grabbed two beers, if it was him he saw leaving Evie Keen’s place the other night. He says that he’s been visiting her lately and that prompts the trucker to go off on the youth. He’s jealous of Chip cozying up to the only decent woman in a hundred miles. He continues, “First the Democrats shut down our refinery, then the Mexicans got all the other jobs…and now little f**s  are walkin’ in and takin’ our women, right? You must be special, Chippy. Whatta you got in that locket? Some kinda Spanish fly?” That’s when Chip’s eyes glow red and he tells Cam that he should go home because he’s had too much to drink. Cam instantly backs down and repeats what Chip has said. A yell from Renee breaks the men’s conversation, as she wants her employee to make another pass with the mop because Stu couldn’t hold his beer. Chip says he needs to be done at seven, which was the only requirement he had to taking this job. His boss tells him he should do it or she’ll offer his job to someone else. That’s when Stu throws up on the floor. Before he begins mopping, Chip sees the sun rising. This is a great start to a terrific series by Tim Seeley. The reader gets to see Chip race home, with a wonderful decoration in his coffin. What follows is a two page sequence of trouble on the horizon and has me asking how this can happen under sunlight. Sundown brings Evie Keen into the story, establishing the relationship they share. I love what Chip has on his television after her exit, with the film providing hilarious background noise during the next scene when three unexpected visitors arrive. The next four pages show that Chip is not a pushover, though the final page will have readers taken back, much as Chip is. This is fantastic beginning to a vampire in a very unusual setting. I want more! Overall grade: A

The art: One of the joys of Corin Howell’s art on this book is that she can create normal people in realistic settings. A twenty-four hour gas station is not exactly something fans are clamoring for, but Howell makes it real. The Buffalo Jump looks just like a million other gas-and-go’s I’ve passed. The introduction of Chip to the reader is done with the back of his head as he’s checking out who’s pulled up. Then his bucket of water is shown as he’s wetting the mop. This is followed by large panel of him mopping the floor; again a common occurrence that many people have done. The close-up on his eyes at the bottom of this page show him to be an observer before acting. Cam and Stu look like the typical baseball cap, unshaven truck drivers. However, Chip shows he’s different in the second to last panel on 3 when he uses his abilities. I like how Howell has slightly changed the images of the fourth and sixth panel on the page to show Chip’s influence on Cam. Should I be finding the fourth panel on 4 funny? It’s gross, but it made me laugh. The humor stops with the last panel on the page as Chip looks outside at the sky. His drive home is intense, with the sixth panel also creating a good laugh because of the visual. Pages 6 and 7 show the effects of what sunlight will do to him, and I love what’s above his bed chambers. Page 9 has a terrific shock, which is graphic, but not over the top. I love Evie’s design. She’s so full of life, though the pain on her face on 11 shows that she’s sad at what is necessary to maintain their friendship; that final panel on the page is especially sad. Chip’s posture compared to Evie’s on 13 is great; I knew what was coming even if the dialogue was only beginning to hint it. The anger on 14 is as strong as the sadness that follows it. The characters introduced on 15 look great and I love what one of these individuals is holding at the end of this page. The action on 16 – 19 is great. The final objects that threaten Chip on 19 are killer, with that second panel excellent. The last page is a full-paged splash that introduces a new character that will unquestionably cause much trouble for the protagonist; she looks gorgeous, but I wouldn’t go near her because of what she is, and is not, wearing. Howell is a fantastic artist. Overall grade: A

The colors: This book begins with Mark Englert creating some great luminescent colors for the truck’s light and the Buffalo Jump. The narration of this issue has a sickly yellow color, aging the text, which would be appropriate for a long lived protagonist. Chip is an eye catcher for being in his red work shirt, making him pop out against the whites and pale colors of the stop’s interiors. Colors clearly establish what’s going on in the fourth panel on Page 3. The violets and pinks of the rising sun on 4 and 5 will make the reader as anxious as Chip. The fire effects on 6 and 7 are cool and I love the natural colors for the image in the final panel on the latter. There are several excellent sunlight effects on 8 and 9 which are beautiful. Evie’s eyes are gorgeous and I like that her shirt matches the interior’s of Chip’s home. Notice how red the four sounds are on Page 11, which magnify the horror of what’s occurring. The sounds really pop on 15 and they should since they’re ruining Chip’s time. I like that the three vistors’ dialogue balloons are outlined in a harsh violet. It’s also cool how Chip’s dialogue gets the same coloring after the action begins. The final page has peach and pale yellow dominate against a dark blue sky. Excellent job by Englert. Overall grade: A

The letters: Narration, signage, a song, dialogue, drunken speech, yells, a digital clock, whispered dialogue, and screams constitute Marshall Dillon’s work on this book. I love the look of the narration that instantly sets it apart from all other text in this book. There are several signs that look as though they would be spied from a highway. The song that opens the book looks as melodic as it actually is. The drunken speech is perfect, with wavering lines of dialogue. The digital clock becomes key on Page 5. The whispered text is spoken by Chip when he’s trying to focus his mind on anything other than what’s happening to him. Dillon never disappoints and he most certainly does not in this book. Overall grade: A

The final line: A vampire in modern day America off the highway is a dark delight. The characters are funny, sad, and creepy as hell. The visuals are a perfect mix of reality and horror, with the graphic dealings absolutely appropriate for the characters. I love everything about this book and can’t wait to sink my teeth into the next issue. No one does horror like AfterShock! Recommended. Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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