A vampire story isn't the easiest sell to comic readers right now. The popularity of things like Twilight have left many non-fans hostile to the very idea of vampires. This isn't helped by the complete oversaturation of vampires in the current market. From the Twilight films to television shows like The Vampire Diaries and True Blood, vampires are everywhere, and many DC fans were dismayed to hear they'd be a part of their comics as well. The comic itself is based on the J.M. DeMatteis House of Mystery story of the same name, and the choice to resurrect the property was interpreted by many as an attempt by DC to ride the vampire popularity train while they still had the chance.
My own opinions on the title started out as negative, but started to change somewhere around San Diego Comic-Con. DC shared a few beautiful preview pages, and writer Joshua Fialkov seemed truly passionate about his vision for the series. I began to see some real promise in this book, and hoped it could win over many of the naysayers. After reading the first issue, I think some of that a little of that promise was realized, but that there isn't enough here to turn the early negative reaction around.
There are aspects of the book that really work for me. In spite of being burnt out on vampires, I'm intrigued by some of the concepts introduced. Creatures like vampires sharing a world with metahumans is rife with possibilities if done right. I'm a huge fan of non-linear narratives, and I think the skips back and forth in time were employed well here, slowly building tension as readers get closer to the final page. And most importantly, I think vampires are being done right here. They have interesting powers and mythology, and they genuinely feel like monsters- the biggest thing most modern vampire stories don't seem to get.
But in spite of all that, I just wasn't able to connect with this story. I felt like I was supposed to feel sympathy for both Andrew and Mary, but I didn't feel invested enough in either of them to care about their problems. While the two of them are supposed to have had a centuries long romance, I didn't feel any real chemistry between the two characters. There's lots of potential for great gothic horror here, but in order to tell a true horror story, the audience needs to be attached to at least some of the cast. Fialkov has done great character work on books like Tumor and Echoes, and I think it's very likely that he's doing a slow build here. I'm just not sure that's the right approach for a book readers will be approaching with so much skepticism.
Artist Andrea Sorrentino's work on this issue is pitch perfect. His art style is more static than I usually like, but it completely works for me here, largely because of his skill in creating atmosphere with each page. This kind of work wouldn't be right for an action packed superhero title, but it's perfect for a slow, suspenseful horror tale. His thick, heavy inks look gorgeous and give each page a cool, creepy style. His page layouts are wonderfully effective, especially one that places wide screen panels of dialogue across a long vertical panel filled with looming horror. The backgrounds are sometimes simplistic, but occasionally feature some beautiful details, especially when it comes to buildings.
Marcelo Maiolo, who also worked on this month's Demon Knights, does a fantastic job coloring these pages. He uses both light and shadow beautifully, and gives many of the book's starker scenes a washed out look, while using lovely tranquil blues for the book's sweeter moments. He really understands how colors can change the mood of a page, and his style compliments Sorrentino's work beautifully. With the wrong artistic team, I think this book could've really gone off the rails, and I'm thankful that the chosen team highlights the best aspects of the story.
If you're not interested in reading anything about vampires, this title probably isn't going to change their mind. There's some good stuff here, but not enough to win over reluctant readers. By the same token, I don't know that this will appeal to vampire fans who are used to reading about neutered monsters. Even Andrew, who sees humans as more than livestock, has his moments of brutality, and the heavy horror aspects of the book might lose them. I do recommend this book to fans of dark, gothic horror, fans of Bram Stoker style vampire stories, and to anyone who's sucked in by the book's beautiful art. I'm not sold on this title yet, but I will be sticking with it, and I hope I'm able to feel for the characters more in the issues to come. I'm not that big on vampire romance, but I love a good horror tale, and this book has the potential to be just that.