“Graveyard Shift” #1 introduces readers to a world where vampires exist, but beyond that, very few answers are given by Jay Faerber and Fran Bueno. A crew of police officers go on a late night raid to issue an arrest warrant only to have the suspect not only flee but display vampiric abilities. Shortly thereafter, they are all murdered along with the fiance of the only officer to survive their attack. It’s a decent story but it’s paced oddly. There is more page time given to the warrant scene in the beginning than any other. The scene doesn’t provide any character development other than to establish that a vampire is out there. Bueno gets a chance to lay out an intense showdown but it’s at the expense of the rest of he story. In fact, the only real depth we get for any character is Hope Kincaid, the aforementioned fiance. Liam, our protagonist, isn’t even given a last name. The reader is supposed to feel for his loss but he doesn’t seem very likable. (Before Hope was killed, I wondered why they were together.) There are two splash pages used in the closing scene where Liam discovers Hope is now undead. The reveal makes sense as a splash because of the emotional impact needed for the situation. But the final splash page, only two later, where a group of mean looking vampires attack Liam, doesn’t seem warranted. They appear on the previous page and are menacing, of course they are going to try to kill him. It’s real estate that could have been better served advancing the story instead of showing a third vampire attack and the second one to happen to Liam. It’s also an odd place to leave the story since the action loses its impact after seeing the same thing happen twice already.
The entire book feels like a curious publication choice after reading Faerber’s essay in the back matter. This was apparently conceived as a book seven years ago and has been slowly worked on since then. It makes the book sound like it was finished out of obligation to Image rather than a project that both creators really wanted to use to tell a compelling story. Faerber is a great writer, but this first issue feels like the least inspired work I’ve read of his in some time. Bueno’s art is clean and readable but very straightforward. Few dynamic shot choices are used and the action is delivered realistically, which unfortunately makes it look basic on the page. The reader’s eye is led well from panel to panel during the action but Bueno has a tougher time during the quiet scenes. There’s a jarring reverse of shot during Hope and Liam’s dinner that doesn’t serve a purpose and distracted from the dialogue. His colors pull all of the panels into the same depth of field which leaves any visual information feeling bland and reduces the illusion of movement throughout.
This is a good concept for a book and in the hands of these creators, who have worked well together in the past, it felt like there could have been so much more. Because this issue may have been assembled years ago, it’s possible the subsequent issues will see a dramatic jump in craft. For now, though, “Graveyard Shift” is going to have to dig itself out of a hole quickly.