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Peculia and The Groon Grove Vampires

Posted: Saturday, August 13, 2005
By: Ray Tate



Writer/Artist: Richard Sala
Publsher: Fantagraphics

Vampires have been the subject of every form of media, and some may say the vein has been tapped dry, but Richard Sala in Peculia and The Groon Grove Vampires shows that a vampire story need not be given a hip, radical transfusion in order to enrapt. Sala employs only established vampire legend and lore. That adherence for makes the book a clever treat for fans of the horror subgenre.

The head vampire in the story is Nicola. Not to worry. I'm spoiling nothing. Upon reading, you will determine Nicola's nature in seconds. Her dialogue has a rhythm similar to Ingrid Pitt's delivery in The Vampire Lovers. Her name has the same cadence as Carmilla, infamous lesbian vampire creation of Sheridan Le Fanu, and indeed, the erotic undertones of female vampirism begin in the prologue. She unlike her "sisters" has modernized her style of dress and is as sophisticated as the chieftess lesbian vampires of Daughters of Darkness, Vampyros Lesbos, etc.

Sala makes use of the Romany, stakes and fire as well as a seldom used but traditional weapon against the monsters. He brings out the idea of a vampire creating its own family ala Anne Rice through the infection and treats the vampires as hypnotic, seductive, blood thirsty vermin--dating back to Pollidori's pulp Varney the Vampire. Their victims are not willing recipients of the curse. They have been assaulted. Their lives, which Sala shows to be fulfilling, have been taken.

The biggest twist in The Groon Grove Vampires is the addition of Peculia herself. Peculia is not a proactive Buffy Summers type. She's not even looking for mystery like Nancy Drew; although the title certainly pays tribute to the titian tressed detective.

Peculia falls into situations, but her nonplused attitude suggests that the happenstance was to be expected eventually. She combats the vampires through pluck and adaptive genius while running like Bugs Bunny. Her battle against the vampires offers the reader humor that contrasts straightforward scenes of horror.

The stand-out moment occurs when Peculia encounters a vampirized baby. Here Sala and his heroine bring to mind my rejection of Chucky as a plausible threat. He can be punted. At once funny and practical, this is the scene that distinguishes Peculia and the Groon Grove Vampires from other works. Despite being a very different character, Peculia's move is worthy of Buffy.

Sala's black and white artwork looks almost like crystal clear photos of woodcuts, but Sala's panels are more animated and easily relate a contemporary story filled with dark atmosphere and intriguing rich settings. The character designs are cute and cartoony lacking hyper tits and ass. The vampires when exposing their fangs and other otherworldly attributes do genuinely make the reader wince.

The art to Peculia and the Groon Grove Vampires may lead some to believe that it's a cutesy story written for all ages. There's no doubt that Peculia meets the general quality of all-ages comic books. It is however definitely a book for a mature audience. The scenes of blood drinking are graphic, and the method of execution seductive to show the true nature of the crime. The stakes can be easily seen, and you root for Peculia because as Nicola states she's a "clever, clever girl."



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