Review by Frank Plowright
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain is now best known as a TV series that lasted four seasons from 2013, but it it began life as a trilogy of horror novels, and graphic novel adaptations predate the TV show, using the original source.
Del Toro and Hogan exploit the public’s knowledge of vampire stories while offering a real world where no-one ever seems to have considered vampires, where, perhaps Bram Stoker’s Dracula was never written. Epidemiologist Ephraim Goodweather is called in when a plane lands with everyone aboard dead. Except three have actually survived, and among the items found on the plane is an ornate coffin filled with dank soil, an item not listed as part of the cargo. Three days after the plane lands the survivors’ behaviour changes and very soon the style of savage and unaccountable deaths related over the opening pages in 19th century Romania are occurring in New York.
Almost waving the future in front of readers wanting to be thrilled provides the tension, as adapter David Lapham and artist Mike Huddleston introduce us to the flawed people with their hearts in the right place. They’re messing about analysing substances in a lab while readers know the slaughter is coming.
It’s a very disciplined performance from Huddleston, drawing page after page of life as we know it before all hell breaks loose, and then also great with that. These aren’t your standard vampires, and Huddleston gives them their full horrific potential, all pallid, rotting flesh and fatal extended tongues. The result is perhaps that of splicing alien DNA with a vampire.
Unless you buy the hardcover Book One adapting the entire first novel, this continues in Volume 2. By this halfway point Goodweather has begun to conceive the enormity of what’s happening, and how it might spread, while there’s someone else fully aware revelling in the notion, and we’ve taken a trip back to the German death camps of World War II. Del Toro and Hogan’s celluloid instincts shine through Lapham’s adaptation via starting almost normally before a gradual build punctuated by atrocity. It’s a thrilling ride so far and ends on a great cliffhanger.