Review by Jamie McNeil
Bill Sienkiewicz is a comics legend in his own right and his surrealist style is a natural fit for 30 Days of Night‘s avant-garde notions. So it seems a little strange he was only asked to contribute six years after its original release and half-dozen sequels. His team up with series writer Steve Niles for Beyond Barrow was much anticipated, so does it meet expectations?
After years of vampire attacks most folks in the town of Barrow, Alaska know to hunker down or leave before the month long darkness sets in. So when a billionaire adventurer arrives with his entire family and entourage in tow to find out if vampires are real and maybe bag a few, some locals are understandably irked. The party heads out into the Alaskan wastes to avoid further conflict, but there are things older and more frightening than vampires in the Frozen North. The rich and famous might need the help of the Oiks after all
There’s a B-movie feel to Beyond Barrow, the overall impression that is meant to be a tongue in cheek spoof of sorts. After all, this is another sequel of a successful horror franchise before the predictable tendency to capitalise on its initial popularity prevailed. Give some credit to Niles though. He’s well aware his idea has become a victim of its own success and wrings every cliché out of it. Arrogant rich people having a party where they shouldn’t? Check! Underestimated pretty girl with more smarts than the company she is in? Check! Grizzled old timer helping out? Check! There are some moments, and there is no hint that Niles ever wants you to take the story seriously, but it ends abruptly without any decent resolution.
Sienkiewicz is a superb artist and his scratchy abstract surrealist style with its splashes and twists of oils and mixed media is a perfect match for the title. The mix of swirling snow and bloody violence is even more unsettling than Ben Templesmith’s work on the original 30 Days of Night, but it is overwhelming and perhaps too visceral to follow easily. Another factor is that Templesmith had already cornered the surrealist niche on the series, setting the bar in many ways. The result is that Sienkiewicz’s work isn’t as effective or shocking as it would have been if he had been the first artist to work on 30 Days of Night.
As impressive as it is to have Sienkiewicz contributing to what has been an innovative series, it’s a bit like Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter for the 10th time. He’s the perfect guy for it but he doesn’t really scare you that much anymore. Pick up Beyond Barrow if you like Niles’ writing or dig Sienkiewicz’s artistic style or get three other stories in the vampire saga with it in the 30 Days of Night Omnibus Volume 2.