Vampirism In The Heart Of America: Dark Red #1

by Brendan M. Allen

Charles “Chip” Ipswich isn’t one of those coastal elites with a liberal arts degree and a job at a social media start-up who knows where all the best brunch places are…
No, Chip is one of the “forgotten men.” He lives in a rural area in the middle of the country where Jesus still has a place at the dinner table and where factories send jobs to Calcutta. Chip is also a vampire. Stuck working the last shift at a gas station, Chip is lonely and bored…and then his dull, bleak life is turned upside down when SHE comes to town. Tim Seeley (Brilliant Trash) and Corin Howell (Ghostbusters, X-Files Origins: Scully, Bat-Mite) bring you a contemporary and horrifying tale.

Vampire mythos have come a long way since John Polidori penned The Vampyre back in 1819. Modern pop culture has seen creepy vampires, sexy vampires, high school teen angsty vampires (in both buff and sparkly varieties) in books and film. Recently, Donny Cates and Lisandro Estherren explored the possibility that vampires would probably just be average joes at this point, just trying to blend into society as best they can, being undead, nocturnal bloodsuckers in a warm blooded, diurnal world.
Dark Red #1 takes that same premise and plops a caitiff in the middle of a deep red state working at a 24 hour truck stop, specifically for the crappy hours. Having a regular source for his nutritional blood needs, the only things this cat really needs out of a job are to get off in time to book it home before sunrise, and a big enough paycheck to pay for his dumpy single wide and utilities. Wouldn’t call it living, exactly, but it’s an easy enough way to get by.

One of the problems with series openers is getting the reader up to speed without beating them over the head with exposition. Tim Seeley opens Dark Red with a clever little bait and switch double entendre narration before abandoning it and diving into story. All of the difficulties Chip has with hiding his identity and flying under the radar are introduced organically through interactions and dialogue. In the face of everything, Chip handles himself pretty well, showing great restraint when tested by two nasty local regular drunks and his ego driven supervisor.

Art by Corin Howell and Mark Englert is a great fit for Seeley’s dark, sardonic script. Howell delivers slightly caricatured character designs that are just exaggerated enough to amplify emotion. Action flows easily, and the backgrounds are just rich enough to give depth without distracting. Englert nails light sources, transitioning easily from harsh flourescents to the tense threat of dawn, through the blazing midday sun, back to the promise of safety in the warm glow of dusk.
Dark Red leans into several comfortable tropes but blends them in ways that feel sharp and contemporary. You’ve seen most of it already, but not quite like this.

Dark Red #1, AfterShock Comics, released 20 March 2019. Created by Tim Seeley (script) and Corin Howell (art), color by Mark Englert, letters by Marshall Dillon, cover by Aaron Campbell, alternate covers by Larry Stoman, Jordan Gunderson, Nat Jones, Ryan Kincaid, Brian LeBlanc, Shannon Maer, and Tim Seeley.

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