THIS REVIEW OF ‘BLEED THEM DRY’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. East is East and West is West, and the twain is met in the cyber-centric future of 3333. Within the engineered Japanese mega-city called Asylum, two diverse cultures have established a viable high-tech society following a period of global instability and rebuilding. Now they live alongside each other in harmony despite their differences. You can imagine the sermons if sermons were still a thing there. The lion and the lamb peacefully repose together at last. Bound in unity of brother- and sisterhood.
Yes, humans and vampires have learned to co-exist.
Creator Hiroshi Koizumi says (paraphrasing) he’s dreamt of blending Japanese culture with global mythologies to create something, and somewhere, unique. Mission accomplished with the initial issue of Bleed Them Dry: A Ninja Vampire Tale. There are familiar essences herein. A whiff of Blade. A shade of True Blood. A trace of The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires. Even a hint of Zootopia. By the end of the introduction, it’s clear the setting’s distinctive and even the most familiar “faces” are not all as they appear.
Detective Harper Halloway is a human Asylum police officer investigating the murder of a renowned prosecutor. Atticus Black is her immortal partner. The victim was a convert, once human but consensually turned by an immortal, the kindly future term for a vampire. There’s been a string of immortal killings, and whispers are they’re the work of one individual. Such a lawbreaker once might be heralded as a vampire slayer. Now the term “serial killer of immortals” is more acceptable.
In the background, we learn an unspecified global crisis, compounded with a Charlaine Harris-worthy PR campaign, has promoted vampire-human cooperation. “Nosferatu” as good stewards of their blood resource. “Humans” as the assets of an ever-renewable blood supply. Tenable so long as conservation is maintained, the balance never tipped by immortal overpopulation. It keeps vampires a minority in this society, but a minority with strong representation. (Evidenced by “immortal” being more polite than the v-word.)
Descriptions of the ambiguous crisis mention a coastline in America where none currently exists. It’s an example of specific details being withheld, their mention sufficiently propelling the main story with minimal drag. Our two protagonists have a healthy fictional cop partnership despite their differences.
Harper serves as the reader’s portal into Asylum lifestyles. Late Edward Hopper night cafe dining, menus featuring hot java alongside hot plasma. The taboo of nonconsensual biting. The mystery builds in tandem with our worldview and then it’s all wrapped up with a suspiciously scarlet bow. Or is it? The issue finale upends much of what we believed, punctuated by hybrids and Renfields and fangs-out bloodletting. Yes, ninjas too.
In a truly relevant manner, the polite and reasonable surface of Asylum appears bent on obscuring a deeper, sordid truth. A conspiracy is afoot, a long game played out with unknown stakes and Harper dealt a foreboding hand. The balancing act alone, predator and prey sharing the top tier of a very civilized, technologically advanced food chain, is compelling.
The Eastern/Western fusion mostly works throughout the narrative. But Captain Chase, ever-agitated supervisor of Atticus and Harper, is a speedbump. His desk-pounding, irascible Boss Cop persona comes off a tired trope. A staple of Western fiction, yes, but still stale among fresher characters and the narrative’s cyberpunk spirit. Maybe it’s a ruse to cover a more unsettling, devious, or deviant supervisor philosophy from Chase, but we must wait and see.
Writer Eliot Rahal supplies Harper with exceptionally good dialogue at certain points, sooty and neo-Noir delicious. In the final 5-6 pages, Rahal forcefully casts aside a false sense of security lullaby and replaces it with screeching, staccato stabs into our soft fleshy bits. It’s where the subtle effectiveness in telling us only the bare minimum—while allowing us to foster our own, often flawed, conclusions—pays off.
Artist Dike Ruan does drop-step duty, bringing Bladerunner futurism before pivoting between heartbeats to animalistic, supernatural fury. Those aren’t elevated immortals supping. Ruan discards the veneer shockingly, allows glimpses of feral feeding frenzies by bloodsucking undead before civility’s mask snaps back.
Miquel Muerto’s colors add perfect gloom and wetness to Ruan’s skyline. Andworld Design keeps dialogue moving but truly shines through bi-lingual neon signs and newsfeeds. These help anchor Koizumi’s cultural fusion at the most basic levels.
Good concepts launch the imagination. From a cover pitch, a mental parade begins envisioning ways and means for storyline elements to evolve. “Vampire Ninjas.” It becomes an origami image, folding and unfolding and reworking into varied forms. When the handling ends up grander than any version in your imaginarium microburst, then you have this kind of series launch.
Vault Comics / $3.99
Created by Hiroshi Koizumi.
Written by Eliot Rahal.
Art by Dike Ruan.
Colors by Miquel Muerto.
Letters by Andworld Design.
7.5 out of 10
‘Bleed Them Dry’ #1 is in stores now. Issue #2 drops July 29. Contact your LCS and pre-order it now. (Diamond Code: JUN201445)
Read the DoomRocket interview with ‘Bleed Them Dry’ writer Eliot Rahal here.
Check out this 7-page preview of ‘Bleed Them Dry’ #1, courtesy of Vault Comics!