ADVANCE REVIEW! Transfusion #1 will be in stores Wednesday, October 10, 2012.
Even in its simplicity, "high concept" can be tricky. A simple premise is a great start, but like all sound fiction it needs so many other factors to work. The newest comic from Steve Niles, creator of 30 Days of Night and Criminal Macabre, states its high-concept hook right on the cover: "robots versus vampires." In an era of mash-up match-ups I actually don't think thus one has been attempted before.
The concept is pretty blatant, but what makes the debut issue of Transfusion work is the nuance and framing. Combined with the haggard, pallid art of menton3, the script takes its time, employing only smatterings of dialogue and only enough to give context. The book tries to creep out the reader with violence and shocking plot maneuvering with the idea hinging on the machines — robots akin to machines from the Terminator franchise — needing human blood to operate. They scour the landscapes, only seeming to exist to kill and consume. With a hint of the Matrix Trilogy and of touch of H.G. Wells, the robots and world they dominate don't differentiate from modern tropes. The vampires don't reveal themselves until late but I doubt they deviate much from modern norms. However, I think it's fair to hold judgment on the adventurousness of the plot once the story is allowed to flourish.
The world presented is stark and eternally bleak. The book quickly thrusts main character William into a survival situation where he must narrowly escape the slaughter of a family he's traveling with. Niles is frugal with the dialogue but what he chooses acts as smart and tight exposition, painting both the character and the world as nearly hopeless. The contributions by menton3 are obvious too. Utilizing big, spacey layouts and a non-traditional approach to lettering and caption placement Transfusion establishes a firm look and tone very quickly. The script calls for a number of pin-ups and wide paneling, and menton3's art isn't overly rendered or detailed. The only time the pages are filled is when they're soaking the gutters in blood, so yeah, it's one of those kind of books.
Due to the choice of large panels and light dialogue the story barely begins before it's over. The whole of the issue could easily fit into the pre-credits scene of a movie. It's really hard to judge this comic on its merits when it doesn't really show it's hand. The promise of "robots versus vampires" shows its dark face by the end, but it's not enough to really hook the reader.
At the end of the day, there isn't a whole lot to Transfusion #1 in terms of plot or setting. While it's a short, very entertaining read that holds promise nothing is guaranteed. I'll admit to being turned around on the paper-thin pitch, but Niles and menton3 need to do a lot more work for me to give Transfusion an above average endorsement.
Jamil Scalese is just like you — an avid comics reader and lover of sequential art. Residing in Pittsburgh, PA, he is an unapologetic Deadpool fan, devotee of the Food Network and proud member of Steelers Nation. Check out his original, ongoing webcomic And Then There Were Zombies and follow his subpar tweeting at @jamilscalese.