Guillermo del Toro is no stranger to vampires. Along with crafting visually brilliant films like “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Pacific Rim”, he also directed vampire features “Cronos” and “Blade II”. In 2008, the filmmaker joined forces with novelist Chuck Hogan to write a trilogy of vampire books that have been adapted to television on FX, starting with “The Strain”. Bridging the gap between the books and the program are these wonderfully drawn (courtesy of Mike Huddleston and Dan Jackson) and adapted (brilliantly by David Lapham) graphic novels. This deluxe hardcover contains the first eleven issues and serves a comparable first season.
On the side of the good guys, you have Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, an investigator with the Center for Disease Control. He and his colleague and lover, Dr. Nora Martinez, are called in to look into a landed flight that seems to contain nothing but dead passengers and a dirt-filled coffin. The bodies aren’t decomposing and their blood has been replaced with a milky substance. The cadavers end up escaping after their autopsies.
As the CDC at-large tries to figure out what’s going on, tycoon Eldritch Palmer knows all too well. The character is a shout-out to the rich man in “Cronos”. He is, to put it mildly, deathly ill but believes he has found the key to his own immortality. After all, what good is generational wealth to a man with no apparent heir? He has made a deal with one of the seven original vampires. In exchange for everlasting life, Palmer has used his considerable wealth and influence to provide safe passage to the U.S. for the vampire. This signals the start of a war with the other originals and the possible destruction of humankind.
Del Toro’s affinity for the genre is obvious as he blends classic mythology and current technology in “The Strain”. Imagine Bram Stoker’s “World War V” and you have a good idea as to what “The Strain” is like. The story is positively unnerving and frightening, it has a way of getting under your skin and living there. Like the vampires, the story goes for the jugular. Del Toro and Hogan’s creation has all the elements of a genre classic like “Night of the Living Dead” or “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, where human ignorance and corruption are society’s true downfall. However, human emotion can often be the thing that saves it. Many great tales deal in this duality. It’s the window that allows the reader the view in. Readers and viewers are going to have to resist the urge to look away.