Day Men Pen & Ink #1
By Matt Gagnon, Michael Alan Nelson & Brian Stelfreeze
Just to let fans of this title know this is a compilation of the first two issues. This “pen and ink” version is meant to focus on the illustrative talents of Brian Stelfreeze. Also, there are very informative annotations at the bottom of each page.
Day Men is a vampire comic; granted, there are several Vampiric titles on the market, but this series has a lot going for it. It centers on David Reid, a man who carries out the dirty work for vampires during the day. He hasn’t been bitten as most other stories have humans who serve undead masters. His exact motives for this career are still unclear, but signs lead to the matriarch of the vampire house he serves. As the creative team unfolds the world this story takes place in, a war between Reid’s masters and a rival house begins…
The best way to read this book, if one is unfamiliar with the work, is to read through it once then go back and read the annotations. They provide very important context and definitely deepen the appreciation of the amount of thought and work put into this story. Reading that writers Matt Gagnon and Michael Nelson were influenced by Dennis Lehane and noir stories, instantly made me look at the book in a whole new light. To be honest, all comics should have a version like this. Vertigo is doing a similar undertaking by annotating Neil Gaiman’s opus, Sandman. Context is everything!
The plot itself takes several vampire-centric story conventions and changes them. For instance, the first vampire shown is very different from the usually well-dressed, sophisticated archetype that has been seen over and over. Also, the sexual undertones seen in these types of tales are intentionally being skewed by the writers. Personally, what really impressed me about the book is that the plot wasn’t derivative and I couldn’t predict the actions of the characters. To maintain suspense as Day Men does is paramount.
The main purpose of this edition was to promote Brain Stelfreeze’s artwork. To be honest, his character designs are not that impressive. His talent lies in composition and conveying the intended atmosphere/tone within the panels. Going through the book, you can tell where the noir elements come into play without having to read a single balloon. There is one panel where one of David’s bosses whispers something to him. The framing of the panel was simplistic, yet elegant.
This comic was a pleasant surprise and definitely is a welcome addition to the genre. I highly recommend this to people who dig vampire stories or thrillers in general.