Top Cow has done it again. Picking their projects wisely they appear determined to create books that are distinctive in a spandex-driven market. Impaler is their latest high concept book, to use Hollywood slang. The set up is this: blizzard in New York, adrift freighter discovered with dead crew, vampires descend upon the city, cop teams up with ageless vamp killer Vlad Tempes, military struggles to keep up. Thankfully the Cow throw a handy guide in their titles these days, so this is a good place to jump in as any, in case you missed the first issue. This ish begins with two archaeologists arguing over the find of a corpse in a Moroccan dig site, while the object of their discussion seems to stir.
Three weeks later we discover how really desperate the U.S military are. With the vamps gaining ground with alarming speed soldiers are ordered to take them down at any means, even at the cost of civilian lives.
This is a movie waiting to be made. Less of a vampire film than a disaster one, if made, it could easily sit next to Cloverfield or I Am Legend or 28 Days Later. There is a feeling of desperation running throughout the issue, but it isn’t swamped by it. This disaster very much has a human face amongst the devilish horde. Vlad perhaps unwisely, gives his new partner, Detective Victor Dailey, a second chance at life, after receiving radiation poisoning, and Lieutenant George Wagner has a conflict of interest when faced with the insurmountable odds. Finishing off with a scene that ties in to the awakening corpse of the intro, things look unsurprisingly bleaker for our band of heroes in the future issues.
Writer William Harms and artist Matt Timson are on a winner here. It’s obvious they understand one another and are building something eerily incredible. Harms knows when to let Timson unleash his blood soaked art upon us, and when to quiet things down (slightly) although every page is brimming with sweaty intensity, as well as very impressive art.
The vampire creatures are a great work of design. Not resembling the typical neck biters from pop culture, Timson gives the ghouls more of a zombie feel, with a touch of Venom thrown in for good measure. Their blank eyes, shadow like tendrils and scorched skin make for a creepy visual combo. Timson is skilled in every area of art that the comic book page requires. The subtle earthen colours of the opener to the surveillance footage shown to the military to Dailey’s hallucinations that are suitably ethereal. He shows he has the mad skills needed for this mad tale. With Stjepan Sejic and now Matt Timson, Top Cow should give their talent scouts a hearty pat on the back.
Be aware that Impaler wisely carries a Mature Audience stamp for graphic content and profanity and blood are both plentiful. It is a gritty, harsh adventure and one that has me hooked.
For a preview of this ish, go here.