When the eventual vampire apocalypse comes, we had better hope that centuries of vampire lore from books, comics, and movies is accurate. It’s the only thing we cling to, with the proper use of garlic, stakes through the heart, and hoping they can’t cross running water. Of course, we’ve seen countless interpretations of vampires in comics over the years, so to bring something new and intriguing to the genre is a challenge to creators. Luckily with Blood Feud from Oni Press, the challenge was accepted and executed very well.
Written by Oni’s most valuable writer Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun, Helheim), illustrated by Drew Moss (Terrible Lizard), and colored by Nick Filardi (Powers), Blood Feud is packed with vampires, black magic, and swarms of tarantulas, all set in the Deep South. It reads like a great horror movie you’d encounter at the drive-thru cinema, apart of a midnight double-feature.
Following R.F. Coven and his best friends Cecil and Jack, the story takes place deep within the Ozarks in the small town of Spider Creek, named after the annual mass tarantula migrations that occur. As if spotting a blue jay on a Friday wasn’t a bad enough omen, throw in a bucket of dead frogs coming back to life, and suddenly R.F. and his friends are a little suspicious of the strange things happening around town. Later that night during their weekly poker game, the new resident, an attractive young tarantula researcher named Sue, interrupts their game to alert them about a gravely wounded man out in the woods. The man is a member of the Stubbs clan, and his last words are, “It’s a feud. A blood feud.” What attacked him is a mystery, but R.F. and Jack deem it necessary to investigate, armed with firepower and flashlights.
One of the things that makes the town unique is the ancient blood feud between two of the residential families, the Whatelys and the Stubbs. It’s much like the legendary feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, only with vampires. In fact, that’s almost this entire series in a nutshell. R.F. and Jack stumble upon the remains of the Stubbs farm and discover its residents are no longer human, but rather grotesque vampires of all ages who crave blood. Our main characters haven’t a clue what black magic they’ve gotten themselves into, but they know if they don’t take aggressive action, the whole town could be in jeopardy.
The way Moss illustrates the vampires is gruesome and gut-wrenching, transforming the classic monsters into vile inbred monstrosities. It’s as if the vampires from 30 Days of Night mated with the mutated freaks in The Hills Have Eyes. Filardi’s coloring also helps set the sinister tone of the story, giving a sense of foreboding doom throughout. The combination of Moss and Filardi definitely helps sell the story, even at times when the story suffers.
While Bunn gives a good sense of who the characters are and what their strengths and weaknesses entail, in the end they feel a bit two-dimensional, like the typical characters you would find in a cheesy horror movie in the DVD bargain bin. Despite the story feeling slightly rushed towards the end, and a romantic sub-plot
that goes nowhere, Blood Feud definitely still delivers an entertaining story that has a new take on the vampire genre. The magic of Bunn & Moss was first felt in Terrible Lizard, and still continues strong in Blood Feud. If you’re arachnophobic, take warning. I have no problem with tarantulas, I’ve owned quite a few of them during my childhood, but they were in cages. Seeing swarms of them depicted in the book definitely gave me the heebie-jeebies.
This trade paperback contains the first five issues, and a cover gallery with both regular covers and horror homage variant covers by Moss. The homage covers pay tribute to classic horror films like Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and A Nightmare on Elm Street to name a few. I was definitely a fan of the homage covers, and will keep an eye out for them at the next convention.
Blood Feud was a fun read, and I’d recommend it to fans of all-things horror. The art especially won me over, and now I’ll think twice before visiting my friend Gustav down South. Chances are, he’s been bit already. It will be available to purchase July 5th, 2016.