Friday, April 29, 2011

Vampire Boy – review

Writer: Carlos Trillo

Artist: Eduardo Risso

Translator: Zeljko Medic

First published: 2010 (as a complete volume)

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: What does it mean to live forever?

Five thousand years ago, a mysterious plague seared its way through Egypt, its only survivors a pair of deadly enemies: the pharaoh’s young son and the high priestess of a sinister snake cult. Bound by a common curse, the two have pursued each other across centuries and countries. Now, one of them is determined to end their fight for good—by any means necessary.

Brutal, Passionate, and above all achingly human, Carlos Trillo and Eduardo Risso’s odyssey is the antidote to tired vampire tropes: a wholly fresh and original reimagining of the mythos from two of the strongest voices in comics.

The Review: At its heart Vampire Boy has a very simple story that is summed up in the blurb. We have two vampires; a nameless boy whose father refused to name him until he became a man and now, stuck forever at ten years old, becoming a man will not happen. Then there is Ahmasi, a snake priestess and whore who contrasts against the sexless boy by being overtly sexual and using sex as a weapon.

Both survived a plague by becoming vampires – though neither knew the how or why of it – and Ahmasi has tried to kill the boy down through the centuries, bearing a grudge they both held for each other as mortals – the boy showed his father that she was liberal with her favours, rather than monogamous with the Pharaoh as his concubine should be.

reforming in sunlight
However, the lore in this is startlingly different. As the comic begins men are digging into an old sewer area that has been unopened for 50 years. Deep inside are the bones of the boy but, as the sun touches them, they reform – though it feels like liquid fire. This is the major lore difference; the sun heals (painfully) rather than destroys. The plague, in Egypt, was described as being like light inside and it was the sun that purged it from the two survivors.

This puts a totally different slant on the story. Wounds do not heal themselves but the sun will heal them in the morning – though there is a sequence where a headless vampiric body finds its own head and the reattachment never heals properly – looking eternally messy. The vampires have inordinate hunger, which blood or food can slake, though the boy must eat considerably more food than a mortal to even remotely dent his hunger. They are also incredibly strong.

To kill a vampire… well, as that is a main plot line I won’t spoil it.

What was nice was, whilst the dynamics were different due to the unusual lore and the story itself was simple enough, it kept you reading through its rather epic length (almost 500 pages). The loneliness felt by the boy and the purely evil machinations of Ahmasi kept the reader hooked. The art was a stark black and white that worked well, and the book never shied away from violence or sexuality – indeed a caveat here that the book does have quite a strong sexual undercurrent at times.

7.5 out of 10


Anonymous said...

Hi, I've got a couple of graphic novel suggestions:

Blood: A Tale. Written by J.M. DeMatteis, art by Kent Williams.

So surreal it make La Belle Captive seem like straightforward storytelling. Images in the book reference Bocklin's Isle of the Dead, Schiele's The Family, and others. First published in 1987 as a miniseries.

A movie is under development.

The Turning (Confessions of a Teenage Vampire). Written by Terry M. West, art by Steve Ellis.

1997 graphic novel for young adults that I found very charming. High school cliques, geeks, bullies, and vamps both good and bad.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Halek, thanks for those. The video on the Blood page looked so good I immediately ordered the graphic!