The Strain is a vampire story for people who like their monsters to be monsters. Adapted from the novels by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, the comic follows a pair of CDC agents and a mysterious old man as they try to stop an outbreak of vampires in Manhattan. This comic does a great job of remembering that vampires are to be feared, not desired. They are nearly mindless beasts with ravenous appetites and seem more like a plague than a villain to overcome. There is a villain to be sure, and he is a good and menacing figure, but the real threat still seems like it is the rate of infection.
This is one of those stories where everything is going poorly for our small, but intrepid, team. Increasingly marginalized by the authorities and facing a larger and more organized threat than anyone suspected, they continue to fight and even find the time to recruit. I read the original novel and thought it was ok. The ideas were solid and the portrayal of vampires was great, but I wasn’t ever engrossed. The comic is a whole different story. Well, it’s the same story, but it is more streamlined and felt more effectively done.
The other thing the comic has that the novel didn’t is the incredible art. Mike Huddleston’s art is spectacular. Everything is slightly exaggerated and masterfully drawn. There are panels with almost no detail in the background that still feel as grounded and real as possible, even when truly nightmarish things are happening. I love this kind of art. It feels very real when it wants to and very stylized at other times.
I really enjoyed this comic, both as a great version of a novel I enjoyed and as a truly creepy look at one of the greatest monsters around. I would recommend picking up the first volume as well, but the story is compelling enough that it shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t. This might not be the definitive vampire graphic novel, but it definitely belongs on your shelf.
Four Creepy Lung Tentacles out of Five