I am an unabashed nerd who goes to comic book conventions and plays video games. Graphic novels are one of my favorite things in the world. I’ve owned 30 Days of Night for many years, probably since shortly after it was released, and it provided a much-needed respite from the romantic, whiny bullshit that had defined vampires for the previous several decades (and continues to do so in the YA and paranormal romance genres). Look, I’m woman enough to admit that I went through an Anne Rice phase in my late teens-early 20s. But at least Lestat was actually fun in Interview With the Vampire–he enjoyed being a vampire and a jerk. As the vampires grew ever more obsessed with being human again, I lost interest.
And that’s what attracted me to 30 Days of Night. These vampires love being at the top of the food chain. They aren’t crying for the loss of their souls/mortality/some chick/etc. They like to feed and to kill. It’s what they do best, and damn it, it’s just fun. The choice of Barrow, Alaska for a vampire rampage is so brilliantly obvious, I’m a little pissed I didn’t think of it first. Curse you, Steve Niles! Barrow is extremely isolated, extremely cold, and extremely dark. The sun never rises for a solid month. It would be the ideal setting for any number of horror stories, but if you’re sticking with the concept that vampires can’t go out in the sun (a concept that comes not from folklore, but from Hollywood), what better place on earth than Barrow? My one complaint would be the largely unnecessary subplot involving George and “Momma.” It added little to the story overall, especially since there is already conflict between the vampires themselves regarding the discovery of their existence. I haven’t read subsequent books in the series, so I don’t know if the pictures George transmits to her ever have any relevance or not, but that subplot just seems out of place.
OK, and Eben’s transformation. No explanation is given as to why he is able to control his vampirism for as long as he does. The person whose blood transformed him immediately became consumed with bloodlust. I have no cause to believe that Eben is a better person than a man who was bitten searching for a loved one (Eben has spent most of the book hiding, after all), yet he can somehow channel his murderous impulses toward the vampires rather than the people around him. He sort of reminds me of Rick from The Walking Dead, whose heroism, motivated by a thoroughly unrealistic altruism, has rendered him unbelievable as a character.
A lot of people are on the fence about Ben Templesmith’s artwork. In his introduction Clive Barker mentions the “soft focus” of it, and I think it works well for this story, as it creates the illusion of the indistinct haze formed by falling snow. The black-and-white bleakness of the setting and the vampires, contrasted with splashes of red, is visually very powerful. (I did my undergrad in studio art, and I still draw and paint as often as possible, so I’m very much a visual person.) His style is highly unique and, even if you don’t like it, you probably won’t forget it.
Is 30 Days of Night the greatest vampire story ever? Of course not. But it brought back the folkloric vampire, the heartless, remorseless killer that haunted the nightmares of 18th-century Europe. That’s the vampire I know and love, and I hope we continue to see more of them.