Life Sucks – I shall avoid the obvious pun for the title.
Published First Second
I really thought I’d enjoy this one a lot more than I actually did. The pedigree was excellent; Jessica Abel’s the writer/artist on Artbabe and Warren Pleece has never disappointed me yet with his artwork. But despite that the book just fell flat and I finished it with a real sense of indifference.
This graphic novel tale of modern suburban American vampires reads like a by-the-numbers Vertigo series with a twist – consider it “Vampire Clerks”. Dave is a bored, downtrodden, broke, girlfriendless employee at the Last Stop convenience store. He’s the night manger through necessity rather than choice, because he really can’t do the day shift without bursting into flames and anyway, he has to work because his Vampire Master owns the place and ordered him to shortly after Dave was turned into a Vampire. Bored and depressed at what his undead existence has become, Dave Miller starts obsessing over the cute goth girl who comes in. But she’s far too wrapped up in the Goth, vampire wannabe group she’s part of to really notice him.
(How to make a bad job much worse; the boss happens to be your Vampire Master. Art © Warren Pleece, used with permission of First Second Books’)
To be honest, if the whole book had been like this I’d have enjoyed it far more than I did. The concept’s good and the story does a good job of subtly pointing out the vampire’s strange existence without needing to show someone rip someone else’s neck out to do so. Abel and Soria come up with some ways to point out the flaws in the old myth of Vampire cool; what if not all Vamps are rich and powerful like Anne Rice makes out? What if they have to hold down crappy jobs because their Vampire Masters make them? All nicely played out with Dave in his boring, tedious convenience store job whilst the Goth Vampire wannabes parade by. The dialogue between Dave and his friends is nice, there’s some good underplayed comedy and the entire tone of young angst is nicely done.
(“Sauve older gentleman” – great line. This is why the first half of Life Sucks is good; easy-going sarcastic dialogue, a good concept and Warren Pleece’s great artwork. Art © Warren Pleece, used with permission of First Second Books’)
But at the half way stage Abel and Soria decide to actually introduce something akin to a plot and then promptly show someone ripping someone’s neck out for good measure. And from here on in it rather lost me. Dave starts competing with Wes (bigger, nastier vampire) for his girl’s affections and tricks Wes into making an old school blood oath that conveniently means they can’t use powers to get the girl. And that’s the way the rest of the book goes, ending with a confrontation between the Vampires, a bad decision by the girl and a trite deus ex machina within the last few pages that makes everything alright in the end. After the freshness of the initial concept and the initial story, this change of pace and the ending just didn’t work for me at all and left me with that horrible feeling of “so what?”.
Warren Pleece’s art does deserve special mention though. He’s an artist I remember from a long, long time ago from his self published Velocity magazine, True Faith and then all too infrequent art for Vertigo. But he’s a lovely storyteller and composes some great looking panels. Unfortunately they’re great looking panels that aren’t telling the great story they deserve.
Life Sucks is a let-down. I went into it thinking it might be a great story that cleverly turned the Vampire mythos on it’s head. But sadly, despite the initial concept being interesting enough to make me pick it up, the subsequent story starts really well and then seems to lose it’s nerve and heads off into familiar territory. Which is a particular shame, because Abel and Pleece together on a book should have given us far better than this.
Richard Bruton is wondering why the clerk at his local shop refuses to sell him garlic.