Bite Club #1
Written by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman
Art by David Hahn
genre has been crossbred with just about every kind of story
we have a name for. We've had space vampires, cowboy vampires,
bunny rabbit vampires, vampires in Ancient Egypt, vampire
pirates, family friendly vampires who pal around with that
kid from Jerry Maguire, vampire muppets, and probably
more vampire porn than anyone
well, almost anyone would
care to catalogue.
vampire mafia sub-genre has never really gotten a chance to
John Landis took a whack at it with Innocent Blood,
but he didn't even scratch the surface. While there's definitely
a lot of bloodspray potential there, Landis never saw beyond
that to the big questions that arise when you give an organization
of ruthless criminals eternal life, super strength, an aversion
to sunlight, and a nearly limitless thirst for human blood.
Bite Club, the mini-series that finally attempts to
answer all those questions which a vampire Don might face
kicks into high gear right from page one, when Eduardo Del
Toro, the vampire Don in question, is gunned down (with wooden
bullets, natch) by an unknown assailant. Then he falls about
twenty stories before being impaled on a patio umbrella, so
we can be pretty sure he's dead. Word of his death spreads
to his daughter Risa, a record exec who's sexy and sexual
beyond all reason, his son Eduardo Jr., a made man trying
to make a better life for his own homicidal 15-year old son,
and the other son, Leto, who has given up the Family life
and been ordained as America's first vampire Catholic priest.
it isn't long before news gets out to the whole of Miami that
the head of the Del Toro Family has been assassinated, and,
just as the deceased is being laid to rest, the hunt for his
killer is beginning. Oh, but then there's the little matter
of what the Don wrote into his will
know this title's going to draw immediate comparisons to The
Godfather or The Sopranos, and that's pretty understandable
when you consider how this first issue goes, but Bite Club
moves us into interesting new territory for both the vampire
and mob genres. It establishes that the vampires are indeed
nigh-invulnerable and can, in fact, wear enough sunblock to
move around in the daylight, but it also informs us that they
age and fall apart just like humans do (the best scene in
this issue has to be when Zeph, the two-hundred-something
consigliere, is seeing the dentist to get fanged dentures).
the vampires in Miami seem to belong to the Del Toro Family,
so far, but we also know they can spread the "gift"
as some people in town choose "vampirism over plastic
surgery to maintain their near-eternal youth." What I
found most shocking, though, was that the vampires were known
well, VAMPIRES! From the radio blaring out that
the late Don emigrated to the U.S. in 1847 to the Miami PD's
Vampire Crime Unit to the apparently convenient market for
blood smoothies, the city seems geared to the fact that vampires
rule the underworld.
the idea of vampires abandoning their dark and mysterious
trappings to very publicly rule over an American city may
seem like a bit of a leap in logic. I mean, think about it;
these people NEED to feed on human blood. By definition, they
are the enemy of the human race. But, when you consider it,
is the prototypical mobster any better? Wouldn't he also mercilessly
kill and maim just to put food on his own table? And, when
you consider the euphoria one's supposed to get from a vampire
bite and that people might actually want to be bitten, doesn't
the mobster seem like the greater villain, in the end?
the things that may prove somewhat harder for modern comic
readers to swallow is the narration from the "God perspective."
It's getting hard for me to remember the last time I read
a new comic where the narration wasn't coming from a character
in the story, some narrator who was clearly there when it
all took place, or even a big book that everything has been
written down in. Nowadays, the style of free-floating narration
may be seen as old school, but it could also throw newer comic
readers and just be seen as old hat.
problem at work, however, was word balloon placement. Ridiculous,
I know, but a couple scenes of heavy dialogue exchange got
really awkward really fast just because the order of those
damn balloons was screwy. Hopefully, they'll avoid that next
the artistic side of things, the team comes through marvelously.
David Hahn, using a remarkably steady hand, has no trouble
giving us the raucous Miami party scene, the subdued settings
of everyday vampire life, the horror of Underboss Victor Sanchez
unleashed, and chilling tension of the monster that lurks
inside Risa Del Toro. Kudos also to Brian Miller for delivering
a simple yet appropriately detailed color scheme that sets
a strong, consistent mood for every scene.
I don't think it was intentional, their work is reminiscent
of the 2D art used for Grand
Theft Auto: Vice City, which isn't too hard to imagine
since both revolve around gangsters in Miami. It'd be nice
to believe others may have noticed that, as well, and that
the book might pick up some readers based on the similarity,
but I fear that market may be lost if they keep using covers
like this first one. Don't get me wrong; I like the cover
and the cute yet scary image of Risa with a milk carton full
of blood, but Frank Quitely's art is NOTHING like what's inside
the book. Now that they've gotten the first issue with the
popular cover artist out of the way, I really hope they'll
allow the series' artists to take over those duties.
said and done, Bite Club takes two old genres and gives
'em a good punch in the stomach
or a nice chomp on the
depending on where you're coming from
it works. Read it. Don't make me tell you twice.