Saturday, April 7, 2012

Blood: A Tale Trade Paperback Review

Blood: A Tale
DC Comics - Vertigo
Softcover Trade Paperback
192 pages
$19.95 (2005)
ISBN 9781401202637

Contributors: J.M. DeMatteis, Kent Williams, Jon J. Muth, George Pratt, Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh, and Gaspar Saladino

Reprints: Blood: A Tale #1-4 (of 4)

Synopsis: An aged king roosts in his deathbed and refuses to die.  He is visited by a spirit who tells him the tale of Blood.  The tale begins with a baby found by a young woman and an old crone.  The young woman raises the baby as her own until she must give him up to be educated by monks.  Life in the monastery is rigid and cruel, but the boy learns.  
Blood becomes a vampire

He eventually leaves the monastery and ventures into the world.  It's a bleak and depressing place with no real answers to any of his questions.  Blood continues to search and discovers the world is dangerous as he runs into a pack of vampires.  He turns.

Now Blood's short life is over and his long un-life begins, but he refuses to give up without a fight.  Continuing to search for answers he gains two companions - a female vampire who becomes his lover and a crippled, floating man called Little One.  They form a bizarre family and continue on Blood's vague quest.

Can Blood find answers in this mad world and how far can one fall before giving up?  What of the un-dead king and his refusal to accept death?, yeah.
Pros: Some very nice painted art by Williams - particularly the nudes and scenes of intense emotion, good overall story concept by DeMatteis, makes the reader think and ponder with several layers of storytelling

Cons: Dis-jointed story, weak narrative at times, both art and story suffer from inconsistencies, murky and hard to understand, touted as a 'vampire' story yet has very little to do with vampires, Little One character is odd (looks like a Sienkiewicz knock-off design)

Mike Tells It Straight: DeMatteis crafts an existential, mythical tale with a passing familiarity to vampires.  His storytelling impressed me with its multiple layers (the old man being told the story of Blood and the events of Blood's life) and metaphor for the phases of life (Blood's learning process as he stumbles through life and un-life).  Reminds me of tribal folk tales - like how primitive cultures explained how the moon came to be or fire was discovered. 

Vampires live in packs in the woods -
kind of like wolves
Originally published as a mini-series by Marvel in 1988 through their Epic imprint (for mature readers), Blood: A Tale was again published by DC's Vertigo in the mid-90's and finally collected into one volume.  The story is out there and challenges the reader to think about the metaphors presented.  It has some interesting moments, but I felt the narrative style and Williams' art were too inconsistent to make a lasting impression.  It reminded me more of a really good art project than an epic graphic novel.    

The tag line "A vampire story unlike any other" was misleading - sure, Blood becomes a vampire and does a few vampire things, but it's not really about vampires.  It's about a boy's journey of discovery and finally finding peace in life.  Good art, confusing story, dated at this point (over 20 years old), and pretty low on the recommendation list.

TO BUY and Recommendations: