One of the most interesting comics on the shelves this year has been Transfuion – Vampires vs Robots, a beautiful piece of work from Steve Niles, author of 30 Days of Night, and Menton3 (Menton John Matthews III, if you please) the incredibly talented artist of oil paint and watercolour, as well as a multi-instrumentalist who brought us the stunning artwork of Silent Hill: Past Life.
The back story is summed up succinctly on the first page, in the form of an ominous foretelling – “In the future, robots will run on human blood…and they will destroy the Earth, drinking deep the end of life.” The pages are cold and empty, showing the wasteland that Earth has become with its barren trees; a family are trying to survive by finding small patches of crops to harvest, but are forced to wear gas masks at all times. The mother holds a baby in her arms and cries when they find some food, thankful she can eat and feed her children tonight – until a huge “CLINK” bursts across the page and fills both the characters and reader with horror.
The robots are huge and towering and fill a two-page spread as they move across the scratched woods, the humans looking insignificant and weak in comparison. The neutral colours are suddenly ripped apart with the bright red of human blood as the robots eviscerate the family and steal whoever is left alive, including the baby. As one last character emerges from the crops, he is stopped by the near-dead father of the family whose eyes have sunken into small points and accuses the stranger of letting them die; the stranger responds by taking his weapon and killing the man with it. More details of how the world came to this point are shown through his story – how the world was growing more exciting with technological advancements but instead of the promised future of jetpacks they got robots, which turned on humanity within five years and now need their blood to survive.
The following four pages are speech-less, showing only the battle between the only consistent character we have seen so far and a roving robot which appears to have the skull of the human (which is incredibly haunting, and reminiscent of some of Dave McKean’s creepier work). The skull is eventually torn from the robot and blood splashes out across the page and just as he finishes destroying the beast he looks up to see the vampire clan joining him. A nude, bald woman with pinpoints of light for eyes and a child of just a few years with its lips sewn together make a striking image surrounded by the scratched eyes and mouths of their clan hiding in the darkness. It’s clear that the vampires are scavengers as much as the humans and are determined to find blood of their own.
The plot may seem a little odd at first, but it’s such a small part of what is wonderful about this comic. The shifting voices of the humans and vampires makes the emotional story much more complex and even the lettering of the narrative is beautifully, done as though Niles were writing the horror story in front of us. Like many great horror stories, the writing is simple but powerful, leaving enough to the imagination so that we may fill in our own gaps. The artwork is some of the most impressive I’ve seen and is oddly calm and dreamlike, making it not only impressive under analysis but a genuine pleasure to read.
Niles and Menton3 are working on another piece right now called “Nosferatu Wars” which follows two vampires in their time together and apart, meeting again as two tribes of vampires come to battle. Meanwhile there are two issues to come of Transfusion!