Review: Blood Blokes #4 by Adam Cadwell

The story of a group of vampires living in modern-day Manchester, Blood Blokes is written and drawn by Adam Cadwell and published by Great Beast. This review is based on a physical copy I bought.

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“Contemporary vampires” isn’t a particularly new concept, having been played with by various generations over the years. Blood Blokes, for everything, doesn’t pretend like it’s revolutionising comics by bringing monsters to Manchester, and is all the better for it. Despite the foreboding cover, issue #4 is a pretty inviting issue, bringing you straight into the household where all the main vampires – amongst them new, just-turned vampire Vincent – live together. Well, not live, as they’re all dead. But you know what I mean.

In terms of tone, Blood Blokes plays in the same sort of world as something like ‘Being Human’. The series is unflinchingly realistic, and can flit to brutal at a moment’s notice – but for the most part, ‘realism’ means ‘naturalistic’. This isn’t about piling grit on the characters so much as it is about capturing everyday speech and putting it in the mouths of the most unlikely protagonists. Issue #4, for example, is consistently conversational in a light-hearted manner, as the characters discuss various day to day interests with one another. That these interests intermittently flick to things like ‘drinking blood’ and other vampire things, that provides an uncanny feeling which settles across each scene.

Cadwell largely decides to follow all the standard tropes of vampire stories – Anne Rice’s take on them seems to be the source for how they operate here – which means the book throws most exposition to one side, realising that readers don’t need it. This gives the book a stronger sense of pace than many other vampire comics have, and allows Cadwell to focus more on the characters than the mythos. With more space freed up for this, you start to really see how much he leans on visual storytelling to convey ideas and feelings across for the reader, at several points holding onto a small moment in time so you can see the subtle shifts in facial expression.

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This is perhaps the strongest art of Cadwell’s career thus far – granted, much of his work has been autobiographical and therefore composed on a daily basis, whereas Blood Blokes is a more composed piece drawn over a longer period of time – and you can sense that thought has gone into each page layout. He seems more interested in trying out things like two-page spreads here, and there are some really interesting choices for where he leaves a panel wordless. The above spread perhaps gives you a good glimpse of the sequences where he sets a mood, establishing Manchester before diving inside one of the buildings to explore it from the perspective of the characters.

It’s also a really funny issue, sharing out the jokes between script and art. The best scene is a wordless one, in fact, where a character throws something into the Manchester canal – hey, that’s what the canal is for, let’s face it – without a care in the world for what he’s doing. I read the first issue a while back, but there’s been a break for me since, and the characters felt fairly distinct from one another here. It certainly helps that one of them (the guy on the cover) has amazing hair.bloodblokes3

Of course, it also has to be noted that this is an issue which introduces a part of Manchester called ‘The Spire’, in what is almost certainly a clear tribute to this very site..

As with Being Human, the realism of the storytelling means that there isn’t a particular sense of tension or panic as of yet. Things roll along in a normal sort of manner until all of a sudden a crisis breaks out of nowhere, and the characters suddenly have to scramble and sort things out. That does make for a more unpredictable comic, and brings out the surprises at the most unlikely times – it also means the comic doesn’t have the regular flow of a single-issue piece. There isn’t a build up to the last page – there are instead ebbs and flows throughout the span of the issue.

It’s entertaining for that, though, and I think it’ll probably play out best once collected with all six issues together. It’s fun; a light-natured and then suddenly dark-hearted comic, mixing classic vampire mythology with the bluntness of modern-day life in t’North.

 

 

The Spire has an open submission policy, and accept review copies via the email address on the right. If you have a comic of your own you’d like to see reviewed on the site, please feel free to send it across – bear in mind that I’m going to give an honest opinion on the book, though! Reviews at The Spire can be up as well as down, etc etc.

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