This comic adaptation of a novel by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan is proving to be a sleeper success. As far as horror comics go, “The Strain” has the right atmosphere, a very pleasant attachment to these new characters, and a set up for violence and terror that will leave you needing to know what comes next. This is a successful jaunt into the darker end of comics. This issue ends with everything ready to be soaked in blood; the time spent setting it all up means you will actually care.
A flight had landed with the plane silent and all passengers dead, or so we supposed. Turns out there were three survivors, each more different than the last. The most interesting one, Ansel Barbour, is the one we follow closest. He’s an emotional mess who talks through his every thought of the most random worst case scenario. He’s the sort of guy you most definitely would not want to be next to at 40,000 feet. He’s a funny injection to this tale and yet by issue’s end you know his narrative arc will be warped and we aren’t disappointed.
The pace after this issue is no doubt going to be breakneck, so we must savor these last quiet moments. The places and states everyone is left here are going to affect their opportunities and chances of survival when the real business starts. The occultation is upon us (just a standard eclipse to us laymen) and it’s the perfect time for everything to jump off. Of course, our lead man, Eph, is separated from his son who is at a baseball game. I guess some tropes are just too delicious to ignore because this will set up a quest for the hero more than just survival or defeat of the evil; he must save and protect as well.
Mike Huddleston draws a single panel late in the issue that is simple and mesmerizing. Ansel Barbour has returned home and his wife informs him she had been praying for him the whole time. She is looking away from him, a tissue in her hand she’s been using to wipe her tears, and her eyes are so unbelievably clear she almost appears as a wax statue. It’s freaky and so plain and yet it will haunt you. These are the faces Huddleston populates every page with. It makes it all feel so much more real, and the reactions are always well choreographed. It helps that Dan Jackson doesn’t miss a beat with the colors laid over them.
“The Strain” is going to be a large mini series so you can forgive it taking two issues to set up. You also won’t mind because both of these issues have been great. This one works a little more on structurally moving everyone into their place in preparation for the next act. The information dropped here is enough to lead us all forward into the meat of the middle of this tale. Also, the little moments — like Zack at the ball game or anything Ansel says — are more than entertaining enough to hold this together. Pick up “The Strain;” it’s a gory mess that’s going to work very hard to keep you up at night.