“I know conditions are not perfect here. But no job has those.”
With this piece of dialogue, creator Linda Sejic unveils the true nature of her Blood Stain series. Though the cover art suggests it may be a horror tale – or at least a suspenseful drama – it is actually a slice-of-life, workplace comedy. And it’s a damn good one. With a likeable collection of characters, fantastic artwork, and tongue firmly planted in cheek, Sejic takes the core framework of the horror genre and shapes it into a commentary on the mundane.
When the first volume of Blood Stain ended, our protagonist, Elly, had just arrived at the spooky mansion that would serve as both her home and workplace for the foreseeable future. While her new colleagues were introduced in Volume One’s final pages, it is here where readers are afforded the opportunity to learn who they are. Instantly, it is clear that Sejic has spent a great deal developing the various character dynamics as their chemistry is infectious.
Sejic’s artwork lends itself to physical comedy, which plays a key role in the character interactions. Dr. Vlad Stein and his personal assistant/chef, Serge, make for a delightful odd couple, with Elly being caught between the two. Whether it is Vlad commenting that Serge’s coffee “tastes like ass” or Serge’s feeble attempts to ease any tension, each scenario successfully sets up and executes a punch line.
It isn’t just the core cast that are enjoyable, but side characters as well. Comprised of people from Elly’s life back home, the brief interactions we are given shine brightly and serve to push her character development forward. The reason she took this job – as ill-advised and impulsive as it may be – is because of pressure from her friends and family (especially her sister). She had been, for all intents and purposes, a slacker. Yet the presence of her family is a reminder to her why she is working alongside Vlad and Serge. It’s a situation which is relatable for many people. Not everyone likes their job, and yet they stay because of sense of responsibility to others.
As previously mentioned, this title’s success is due to its use of a horror aesthetic to mask its function as a comedy. The expressiveness of Sejic’s artwork extends beyond the characters to the book’s setting. The heavy use of shadows gives the mansion an authentic “haunted house” vibe, both in daytime and at night. That aesthetic is extended to Vlad, whose “murderous mad scientist” appearance masks what is truly an absent-minded professor – genius, but aloof. He is completely unaware how his appearance and mannerisms make him appear creepy. Elly’s skittish mannerisms often result in Vlad’s glancing at Serge as if to ask “what’s wrong with her?”
Like the first volume, Blood Stain Vol.2 suffers for being too short. Sejic spends so much time developing the characters and their interactions that any progression seems nonexistent. While the journey might be the real purpose of the series rather than the destination, the final page turn is sudden and cruel. Hopefully, future volumes have a greater sense of direction other than a series of interactions strung together by a thin plot.
Blood Stain Vol.2 is a delightful read. Full of genuine, laugh-out-loud moments and insanely likeable characters, Linda Sejic’s webcomic is a welcome addition to anyone’s bookshelf. And if you just have to find out what happens next, there’s always Sejic already has Volume 3 underway on her DeviantArt page. Full of wit and heart, Blood Stain is perfect subversion of what its title and cover implies.