Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Bloodlines #1 Review and **SPOILERS**

Fast Times at Pine Ridge High

Written By: J.T. Krul
Art By: V. Ken Marion, Sean Parsons, Andrew Dalhouse
Letters By: Sal Cipriano
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: April 6, 2016

**Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom**

We’ve had a lot of fun with that early 1990s DC Comics event Bloodlines this week, with Chris Sheehan’s full article about the relevant comic books and Justin F.’s review of the trading card set posted just this Monday (give ‘em both a look!) All around the internet, there have been digital groans and acronym chortles that DC Comics would be resurrecting what is largely regarded as a creatively bereft, bone-headed gimmick that was rightly abandoned by successive creative teams. Of course, it hasn’t been exactly fair to deride Bloodlines #1 just based on its association, because it’s only just hit the stands today. So does it validate any of this assumed hate, or have bitter fans once again prematurely judged something based on almost no information? Hmm…why can’t both be right? You’ll find out if you keep readin’!

Explain It!:

There isn’t much action in the idyllic town of Pine Ridge, Some Northwestern State. You can get the latest sides from DJ Records, or pop by City Deli for a real New York style egg cream. Most of the town rallies around the high school football team, the Tigers, so you can probably find everyone in the stands at their games, home and away. Nope, not much changes in ol’ Pine Ridge, except for that meteor that slammed into a hillside just outside of town, which turned a curious deer into a slavering monster and cleared the area of rodents and small mammals. Besides that, it’s just a regular day for Eddie, who suffers from a degenerative disease that has resulted in him needing crutches to walk. It’s a pretty sad scene, really, because you see his bedroom and it’s littered with skateboard magazines and there’s an actual skateboard in the corner, implying that he was upright and Gleaming the Cube until very recently. Eddie feels pretty bummed about it, as well, as is revealed in very dreary-looking captions and a generally mopey attitude. His breakfast consists of a bowl of Choco Cookie Blast cereal (and no, Jim, it is not a real cereal, do not run to the store looking for it right now) while his mother flits around, preparing for work—it definitely seems like she is a single parent. I’ve got to hand it to this comic book, we’re just four pages in, and already there have been enough visual cues and instances of careful writing to tell us a lot about Pine Ridge and the book’s protagonist, without Eddie having to say “ME HAVE MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY AND MOMMY IS BUSY” like some self-announcing troglodyte. Kudos, creative team, this is how comics should be done.

Eddie is hobbling off to school on his crutches, because Pine Ridge is clearly the worst town in America that won’t even send a disabled kid a goddamned school bus, when his buddy Graham pulls up to give him a ride. It seems this is a standing arrangement, but Graham is perpetually late and Eddie doesn’t like to rely on him. When they get to school, it seems Graham is pretty popular and a member of the football team, leaving Eddie all dejected. Which is bullshit, because he already got a ride to school, it doesn’t also have to come with a BFF for the day. Shit, I would have taken a ride to school from anyone when I was a kid, but that nice man in the windowless van with puppies and candy inside never offered me any. So we follow Eddie to his science class, where brilliant student Alex is giving an oral report on DNA, which of course won’t have any importance later in the story, particularly not regarding some meteor that turned a deer into a werewolf earlier in the issue.

Next we meet Dana, who is spouting some really annoying exposition into her phone as part of a senior year-long “blogapalooza.” Really? I just got finished praising this book for not being too overt a paragraph ago, and we get this? So we learn she’s in her final year at high school, she’s going to look at East Coast colleges over the Winter break, and she is entirely too peppy for someone with so much eyeliner. Is this the way teenagers talk these days? Alien overlords, we are prepared for your invasion now! We meet a few more people that are likely to be pertinent to this six-issue miniseries: Faith, a young girl who acts bitchy to her hot mom; Haley, tough-as-nails mechanic at Stu’s Garage that has a Flash tattoo on her inner arm; and Ricky, local police detective and one-time beau of Haley, with whom he’s left his Mustang and is really regretting that decision. We’re not going to see these folks for the rest of the issue, but I get the feeling that they’re going to be important later. Mainly because they have names.

That evening, Pine Ridge High School students have convened at Sullivan Field, which won a town contest for the most mundane name for anything (“Ed’s Clearing” was also a favorite.) Eddie has a standing invitation, no pun intended, to the regular teenage hijinx that happen here, but because he’s a sad sack he usually declines. Tonight, however, he’s decided to attend because there’s free booze, which is actually why people attend any party at any stage in their lives. Near the outskirts of Sullivan Field, two teens are gettin’ hot and heavy, when one of them hears an animal nearby. The other goes to investigate and if you’ve ever seen a slasher film you know exactly what happens: the beast-deer busts out of some bushes and chews this kid’s fucking arm off! There’s panic at the party as the deer mauls the young man to his demise, and Eddie attempts to get up on his crutches and make his escape. Deerzilla sets its sights on Eddie, of course, and bears down on him as Graham runs to his aid—so the demon deer smashes down on his back! This makes Eddie mad…mad enough to Hulk out into some big blue dude with red eyes? He shoves the deer off of Graham’s mangled form, and bats it around a while until ripping the deer’s skull and jaw off its neck. Did I mention this has become a very gory book? Still all big n’ blue, Eddie runs over to Graham, who says some pithy stuff and expires. A distraught and confused Eddie clutches his sticky, lifeless form, screaming into the night as he reverts to his familiar human self!

So I’m not sure what you thought this comic book was going to be, but it’s a horror comic. Plain and simple. It’s got all the familiar trappings of a sweet 1980s slasher film, and I’m okay with that. I wonder if this is what was intended for the original Bloodlines crossover, but it got muddled by science fiction mumbo jumbo and a need to be Extreme? In any case, the storytelling is really well-paced in this book and the plotting is interesting without being unclear. Good job, Bloodlines team, you’ve made great use of the comics form and told enough of a tale to draw me in for another issue. But I’ve got my eye on you; don’t start spreading into the Annuals of other comics or I’m going to be pissed!

Bits and Pieces:

So this is a horror comic. I'm not sure what I or anyone else expected, but that's what it is. And if you're a fan of the genre, then you're probably going to dig this. The storytelling is excellent, makes great use of visual cues as well as well-paced dialogue. You could do a lot worse than giving this comic book a look, unless you're flat out turned off by the horror genre. I still think they could have juiced another couple of bucks out of this if they stamped holographic foil over the title. 

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  1. I'm actually stoked to see Loose Canon again. I can't say for certain why that is; DC never actually did anything worthwhile with the character. I guess I'm going to have to go for nostalgia...

    1. Strangely enough, Jeph Loeb, just before he became a household name, wrote the early Loose Cannon material. It's good stuff, but ignored by most readers because they assumed the whole Bloodlines thing was a horrible, horrible gimmick, which is how people have viewed it for...oh, twenty years now. Hopefully this can begin to change.

  2. You gave it a 8.5 out of 10? That's a pretty nice score - I'll have to make an effort to check out this relaunched series. -J

  3. Its like DC put this book out again just for me and the seven people who were into this stuff all those years ago! Dalhouse killed it on colors too.

    1. I think anyone of a certain sensibility could jump on this book...but they would have to have a good sense of irony.

    2. Yeah, Reggie knows what he's talking about........ AMIRITE?


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