27 June 2015 1 Comment
Author: Keef Cross
Summary: Beneath the polluted clouds of DayBlack, Georgia, exists a murderer. After hundreds of years of killing to survive, he no longer wants to simply exist… he wants to live. DayBlack is the story of Merce, a former slave who was bitten by a vampire in the cotton fields. Four hundred years later, he works as a tattoo artist in the small town of DayBlack. The town has a sky so dense with pollution that the sun is nowhere to be seen, allowing Merce to move about freely, night or day. Even darker than the clouds are the dreams he’s been having that are causing him to fall asleep at the most awkward times (even while he’s tattooing someone). As he struggles to decipher his dreams, someone from his past returns with plans for him–plans that will threaten his new way of life and turn him back into the cold-hearted killer he once was.
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5
Review: This was a pretty fun, smart and interesting read. I was intrigued by the premise–a vampire who works as a tattoo artist in a town of perpetual darkness. Add to that narcolepsy, falling asleep while tattooing and strange dreams and i needed to read this graphic novel.
Set up for the story starts right away, with a brief introduction to two young boys and their mother. This gives some expectations of Merce, his life, and hints of what’s to come. Ambiguity and suggestion like that are a surefire way to keep me reading. The details of Merce’s “life” are slowly revealed; his bizarre dreams, his dissatisfaction with death, his place in the town, why he’s a tattoo artist, his friends, acquaintances and customers. It’s all leading somewhere, and setting the scene at the same time. It gave me a feel for Merce and his “life”–how he gets along and spends his time, what he cares about but also how he keeps everything at a distance. He has a clear air of apathy and indifference about him, and i loved that. For me it emphasised his undead state; it isn’t that he doesn’t care, it’s more like he can’t.
The other characters, though often brief in appearance, are so succinctly summed up and given life–sometimes in just one frame. Others remain a purposeful mystery, to Merce himself as well as the reader, and i hope we can find out more about them in future editions. A lot of Merce’s history also remains a mystery to be explored in the more comics. It’s clear he worked in cotton fields and was turned into a vampire there, but we don’t know by who or why. There are hints of things surrounding his mother and a possible significant other; but i want to know more–it’s clear there is more to find out.
My favourite aspect were the details around vampire lore. It reminded me of I Am Legend; it played on the stereotypes while doing something new and interesting with them. It also brought the vampire myths firmly into the modern day by addressing how vampires could be affected by technology and disease. I found those kinds of thoughtful details really fascinating.
And of course, the artwork. It really struck me, because i don’t think i’ve come across this kind of style before. In a lot of ways it is quite simplistic; black and white line drawings with splashes of red and a few colourful collages. But within that simplicity is a lot of detail; crosshatching and lines for shadow and emphasis, negative space and excellent framing. The two kinds of frames that were the most striking to me were the less complex ones with one focus, and the scenes that shows Merce’s dreams, which were abstract and full with so much to take in.
Granted, i’m still new to the world of graphic novels, but i’ve not yet read one quite like DayBlack. It felt fun, but interesting enough to be going somewhere. I definitely want to read more about Merce, his tattoo parlour, his vampire hunter ‘son’ and his dreams.