Review: 30 Days of Night (Graphic Novel)

Posted by Peter Hall - November 18th 2006 @ 1:01 pm

Written by Steve Niles
Art by Ben Templesmith

30 days of night

When it comes to horror movies, I may not be the authority, but I like to imagine I can lay the law down with the best of ’em.  When it comes to horror graphic novels, I’m a preschooler wearing a toy badge.  As nerdy as I am, I’ve no memory of reading a comic book of any sort in full until less than a year ago.  My first was Brad Meltzer and Rags Morales’ fantastic series Identity Crisis.  11 months later saw my second, 30 Days of Night, penned by Steve Niles and drawn by ben Templesmith.  I tell you this in the interest of full disclosure, for my review of the latter is coming from a still malleable set of standards.

Inspired by a real stretch of northern land where the sun never breaks for 30 days out of the year, Steve Niles has crafted an intelligent story that finds vampires finally recognizing the prospect of uninterrupted nightfall and sieging the town of Barrow, Alaska.  It opens with Eben and Stella, lovers and police officers, finding a pit containing what remains of every cell phone in the town, which had gone missing in the days prior.  Through a pair of binoculars, Eben notices a mob marching on the city, leaving only violence in their wake.  The couple round up as many people as they can find and hide within the city.   Due to the cold, the vamps cannot track them by their smell, providing enough time for potential heroics to be set in motion.  Meanwhile, an elder vampire, Vicente, reaches Barrow with great disdain, shaking up the entire undead situation.

Niles’ story hits some great notes with the revelation of Vicente and his purpose, as well with its brutal ending.  My only complaint – and this is where my untested tastes for the medium come into play – is with Ben Templesmith’s artwork.  The work itself is phenomenal and gives the piece an inescaple aura of grunge that fits the vampires perfectly.  However, for the purpose of storytelling, I found it a little too distancing.  It makes it hard to focus on any one element and never fully get into the plight of Eben and Stella.  Capturing the gritty horror with the pristine character relationships is a hard balance to strike and I’ve simply preferred if Templesmith took a more precise take on the material as opposed to the graphic opus he composed.

It is an odd complaint, I’ll admit.  Loving the art, but not its function.  But like I said, I’m new to this art form.  I’ve yet to experience enough of it to say what is or isn’t the optimal way to do something.  Did I really just say art should/does have an optimal way to it?  Am I crazy?

Be that as it may, I still know a good story when I see one and 30 Days of Night is a damn good story.  And I firmly believe under the scripting reigns of Stuart Beattie and the direction of David Slade, it’ll be one helluva film.

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