"Day Men #2" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson
Illustrated by Brian Stelfreeze
2013, 36 Pages, $3.99
Comic published on December 11th, 2013
Many vampire stories start out with the premise that they've been operating under the radar for hundreds of years. The fact that they've become legends or myths has helped them survive this long. But they can't keep that up alone. They need help. That's where people like David Reid come in. He's a Day Man and he's basically like an administrative assistant for the Virgo vampire family (think a mob family but with bloodsuckers) except that his duties extend well past making appointments and picking up groceries. He also has to clean up after them when they get a little messy with their food and keep them out of trouble like when one of them murders a high-ranking member of a rival family. Now David is stuck in the middle of a war between the Virgo and Ramses families, and he's doing his job to the best of his ability to defend his employers from certain death. If this sounds cool to you, you're not alone. Day Men has been pretty cool so far and this is only the second issue.
First off, let's talk about the elephant in the room. The first issue of Day Men came out on July 17th. This one came out on December 11th. Ouch. A delay like that can cripple a comic, especially a new one from a smaller publisher. Fortunately, Day Men has the full support of BOOM! Studios and a dedicated creative team behind it. It also doesn't hurt that it was optioned as a feature film by Universal Pictures a mere four weeks after the first issue hit stands. The creators provide a reassuring letter at the tail end of this comic to make sure the readers know that they haven't given up on the story. It's still coming and they want to make sure they're doing it right. There's also a treat in the book for anyone that picks it up, but you have to do a little work to get it.
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Now onto the actual pictures and speech bubbles. That's what the funny book is really filled with, right? Day Men continues without missing a beat with this issue. David starts out in a distillery which serves as a front for a blood running operation for the Virgo family. It's under attack by a group of mercenaries, which he puts down with some help from some guard dogs. His work is not over though, as he's quickly given another assignment. No one ever said war was easy.
Writers Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson have done a fantastic job in creating this world. This isn't just an average mob battle for territory with vampires mixed in. There's some deep mythology built around this concept. There are fifty vampire families, each controlling pieces of the world. The Virgo family controls the east coast of the United States, but they took that from the Ramses some time ago. This created a grudge that has finally erupted into all-out war. Additionally, there's the whole idea of the Day Men. This is a traditional job that has existed for almost as long as the vampire families have. It's like the consigliore of these groups. It's very important and definitely needed. Unfortunately for David, it also means that he's mortal and ultimately expendable. Lastly, there's something called the “fang trade” that has only been mentioned in passing. Not much has been revealed, but it's illegal for the vampire families to be involved in it.
All of these concepts are used to build a great overall story. It did not take long for Day Men to pull me in. David is a character that is immediately likeable and one that you want to see succeed. The measure of success is how long he can survive when vampires are trying to kill each other all around him. He has a mysterious connection to the matriarch of the Virgo family which has not yet been fully explored. His skills are varied and deadly. Where and how did he learn them? How did he get this job in the first place? So many questions exist but enough information, action, and intrigue fill these pages to keep me wanting more.
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Gagnon and Nelson also add in some interesting bits of vampire lore that I haven't seen before, but make total sense. The whole idea of the Day Men is first and foremost. While the bloodsuckers have had helpers doing their bidding for some time, the stories rarely if ever center on these humans that make their lives so much easier. This issue also explains why fire is so deadly to the vampires. It's not just that it can kill them, but it has to do with the fact that they don't breathe (so they can't smell the smoke) and they don't feel (so they don't sense the heat). A sleeping vampire should be just as terrified of a fire as the sun.
Brian Stelfreeze is turning in some top notch artwork on Day Men. It's easy to see why Universal picked the comic up from the images alone. Most of their work is already done with some great storyboards with a lot of detail. Stelfreeze manages to convey the entire tone of a scene with a single panel. Whether it's a tense war meeting at the Virgo mansion between key family members or David's first quiet moment at home after a long day of killing people, there's an immediate sense of mood. So much is said in the first panel of the latter scene as David tosses his signature cane onto an empty bed within a sparse yet beautiful apartment. You can practically feel the stress coming off him as he finally has a second to relax.
His characters are also stunning, which I guess makes sense. There aren't many ugly vampires out there, huh? The human characters are flawed and have slight imperfections. David is always buttoned up, although he has a shock of white hair at his temples that is definitely premature. Meanwhile, the members of the Virgo and Ramses families have porcelain perfect skin and carry with them centuries of having their nose in the air.
Day Men is off to a great start with its first two issues. This chapter gets the action moving quickly as the battle between the two families heats up...literally. This is a strong story with some dynamite art. Let's just not wait so long before issue #3 comes out, huh?