Adam Cadwell’s supernatural tragicomedy came to a bittersweet conclusion at the end of last year with the sixth part of the series that began as a slacker farce with darker dramatic undertones but evolved organically into something far more layered, insightful and profound as the issues went by.
For the uninitiated, Blood Blokes tells the story of loser Vince whose life hit an all-time low when, on a disastrous New Year’s Eve, he was attacked and transformed into a vampire. Discovering a whole new underworld subculture of blood-ingesting contemporaries, Vince struggled to come to terms with his predicament but was aided by his new undead housemates and confidantes Mike, Arianna and the taciturn Douglas.
Vince’s attempts to reclaim his old mortal life, however, have proven disastrous and in issues #5-6 that desire to reconnect with a past now forever denied him will have the most dramatic consequences for all concerned…
Whether it be in its unlikely contrast of grungy student-style digs with the bizarrely otherworldly or its juxtaposition of the children of the night and pop culture, the effectiveness of Blood Blokes has always been in its rooting of the darkly fantastic in the sublimely mundane. The final two issues of the run are markedly different in focus and pacing but both display what has made this such an engaging comic over the last few years. In issue #5 Cadwell emphasises the essential humanity at the heart of Blood Blokes as Vince reveals his new status to his former girlfriend in an instalment that is quieter in tone but deeply poignant in delivery.
In this penultimate issue before the climactic finale, Cadwell gives us a very human character study, all the more affecting for its subtlety as we realise that while their lives are as intertwined as ever the gauche Vince and the disbelieving Jane now exist in worlds that can never be bridged. It underlines once again how carefully he has manipulated his audience’s viewpoint over the course of the storyline and turned an unlikeable and irritating central character into a sympathetic protagonist whose plight we have become entirely invested in.
With the concluding sixth part vampiric culture clashes with the society it has immersed and hidden itself within, character arcs converge and that underlying atmosphere of fatalism that has permeated the book from its outset comes to the fore. And yet we are also given a sense of hopefulness that somehow inexplicably springs out of the nihilistic. A feeling of events coming full circle in the most horrifying manner and yet also embodying an unexpectedly redemptive quality.
Cadwell’s use of the possibilities of black and white artwork has been exemplary from the very beginning of this series. It’s worked to give us a familiar world that has nevertheless been compromised by something “other”; a forbidding moodiness that speaks of the unseen and the unknown lurking in every brooding corner. Added to this his visual characterisation has been such a driving force throughout. Here we have a creator who can tell us infinitely more about his cast, their motivations and their emotional state through their delicately depicted body language than any excessive exposition ever could.
Coming to the end of this series I realised I had no idea as to whether Cadwell intends this to be the first arc of many of whether he has now told the story he wanted to tell. As much as I’ve enjoyed these six issues over the last few years part of me actually hopes it’s the latter. I would say that the greatest irony of the book is that the Vince that has emerged at the end of the story is a far more rounded human being as a vampire than he ever was as a mortal. But that would be doing a disservice to Adam Cadwell’s carefully crafted character development. Heartbreaking, cynical and yet strangely optimistic in message, Blood Blokes has been an engaging metaphorical comics essay on growing up, taking responsibility and moving on.
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