Bad Blood is written by Jonathan Maberry, a novelist whose previous comic output came mostly from Marvel (Doomwar, the Marvel Universe vs. series). I’ve read and enjoyed Patient Zero, the first in his Joe Ledger series about a cop who gets involved in zombie/bio warfare/end of the world shenanigans. Artist Tyler Crook is a regular on Dark Horse’s B.R.P.D minis and drew the Oni OGN Petrograd.
Bad Blood is a vampire story with one wrinkle" the protagonist, Trick, is a terminal cancer patient. We get to know Trick and his buddy Kyle in the first few pages but then Trick is attacked by a vampire. This doesn’t go well for the vampire, who gets messed up by Trick’s cancer/chemo tainted blood. He runs off swearing vengeance. Things go badly from there. Some other folks are killed, Trick gets laughed off by the cops and the Church and realizes killing this thing is gonna be up to him. The issue ends with Trick crashing a wannabe-vampire club and meeting a girl.
The first seven pages of Bad Blood are the best part, and they have nothing to do with vampires. Mayberry introduces us to Trick and Kyle and, in a short time, realistically encapsulates a lifelong friendship. They riff about stuff, there’s a running joke, and Trick’s internal monologue runs throughout, telling us that Kyle is the only one who treats him like something more than a dead man walking. At the end of the day Trick confides that he thinks he’s close to death. Then there’s a great, mostly silent, page as Kyle takes that in and then comforts his best friend. He even gives a little speech that doesn’t come off hack-y or clichéd. It’s like some great indie/autobiographical/slice-of-life thing.
Then the vampire shows up.
Suddenly everything becomes “eh”, not bad but not great, no real new or interesting take, and it certainly pales to what came before. The vampire says the same crap all vampires say and has the same “I have hidden and bided my time but now I will rule” modus operandi. Then he gets messed up by Trick’s toxic blood and runs off. Then things get jumpy, lots of single panels to skip past time, sort of taking care of things Trick would try first before ending up at the LARP/rave thing and meeting a girl that’s obviously important. It feels rushed and bullet pointed, like stuff Mayberry felt obligated to put in to avoid plot holes. And it was disappointing, especially compared to those first few pages.
Tyler Crook, on the other hand, delivered throughout. He’s a great cartoonist; Trick looks gaunt and sickly, the vampire is nicely designed, with a mouth packed with teeth and weird lips and skin folds. The silent page of Kyle comforting Trick is so evocative of emotion. Sometimes I breeze through those pages; silent panels, decompressed stuff, but this one slowed me right down. And the coloring is great too, sort of a watercolor/painterly style. There are so many nice little touches; hectic red patches on Trick’s cheeks and nose or the weird pink fleshy jaw of the vampire. It’s a great looking book.
Which leaves me in a difficult position, the book is beautiful and Mayberry obviously has the chops but do I really care about Trick and his vampire problem? I think I’ll give it one more issue, to see if Mayberry gives Trick someone to talk to and/or the vampire gets more interesting.
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