A great jumping-on point for new fans, comic book stewards Lapham and Huddleston’s treatment of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire epic is the perfect complement to the source material.
A crucial part of Dark Horse Comics’ success producing critically acclaimed, high-quality licensed material is their willingness to invest in top-notch talent to adapt works outside the comics medium and then leave them to it. Their recruitment of David Lapham and Mike Huddleston to transfer Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s creepy and relevant saga of a vampire plague unleashed on an unsuspecting public to the comic page is a testament to the trust they put in their creative teams.
The Strain: The Fall adapts the second novel of the same name in del Toro and Hogan’s original prose trilogy and represents a great starting point for new readers that will entice them to pick up the previous series. Lapham and Huddleston ably summarize prior events while pushing the story forward with expert pacing and impeccable dramatic timing. As Dr. Goodweather and Professor Setrakian prepare for a last ditch effort to save the city of New York, the traumatized doctor’s son must face his own undead mother.
Lapham brings an intuitive sense of storytelling balance entirely necessary for The Fall to be a successful adaptation. His ability to juxtapose intimate character moments with epic events is integral to the story’s ability to resonate with its audience. Already playing off a very real universal societal fear of disease and sickness, Lapham realizes the need to pull the reader in at a visceral level and that means getting them to emotionally invest in the characters. From Herr Palmer to Dr. Goodweather, Lapham showcases his cast’s motivations to maximum effect.
Mike Huddleston’s artwork impresses, as always. His artistic versatility is staggering. In The Fall, his ability to create atmosphere and tension with a refined talent for spotting the blacks and taking advantage of dramatic lighting are on full display. Gritty in its depiction of a besieged New York and heart-rending and horrific in its rendering of major emotional spikes, Huddleston’s visual storytelling entices the audience into feeling every step of the cast’s terrifying journey.
A comic book adaptation done right by a publisher that is expert at the task, The Fall provides a unique visual experience many prose works don’t have the benefit of offering their audiences. When done poorly, these works come off as pedantic cash cows designed to drain wallets rather than entertain and enhance. Lapham and Huddleston not only expand the potential reach of the source material but add an additional emotional layer only achievable in comics.
David Lapham (W), Mike Huddleston (A), Dan Jackson (C) • Dark Horse, $3.99, July 17, 2013.