When I began reading issue #1 of this series, I thought, “wow, this is great — William Harms just jumps right into this insane story without any exposition at all.” I didn’t realize that this was the second volume of a series that had begun a couple of years back at Image Comics. I didn’t realize that Harms had provided the exposition elsewhere. I just thought he hit the ground sprinting in issue #1 and didn’t care who he baffled as long as he kept the momentum going.
For me, speaking as someone who completely missed volume 1, I loved the opening to volume 2. Things were blowing up. Monsters were attacking. Some guy was dying and some other guy — was that Dracula? — was all Obi-Wan Kenobi action. Issue #2 came with a “Previously…” page to fill in some details, but by the end of issue #1 I had it mostly figured out, and I never felt like I was being told what was happening. It was all show, all the time.
The high concept of “Impaler” — a concept which I assume is elaborated upon in the collected edition of volume 1, but can be completely discerned from the issues in this ongoing series — is that Vlad the Impaler is actually a supernatural vampire slayer and the U.S. is under attack by an ancient evil that’s half Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend,” and half Will Smith’s “I Am Legend.” While that doesn’t sound particularly original, what makes it work is that writer William Harms balances the gruesome horror with the military bombast and the sober wisdom of Vlad Tepes with the sad humanity of homicide detective Victor Dailey.
Still, based on the writing alone — and issue #3 is well-written, with the spotlight on some of the peripheral characters as Vlad and Victor begin to plan their next move — this would be a three-star comic. It’s the art that makes it something special. The art of Matt Timson.
Timson has mostly worked on British projects thus far, but his work on “Impaler” is startlingly evocative. His fully-painted (or mixed-media) art shifts from bloody violence to haunting melancholy to pastel cheerlessness. He can do murky action scenes and crisply-colored diner sequences with consistent beauty. It’s a savage beauty, appropriate to a horror-action comic, but it’s one that recalls Dave McKean mixed with Bill Sienkiewicz mixed with Frazer Irving. CBR has a brief preview of “Impaler” #3, but while you can see Timson’s skill in those pages, you can’t see his range. And his range is impressive. He’s an artist to keep an eye on, to be sure.
“Impaler” #3 is part of an immense story about the end of the world, and Harms and Timson don’t hold back. They tell it like it needs to be told, with heroes and villains, vampires and monsters, mothers and children, soldiers and citizens all paying the price for the world in which they live.