A book that is part of a line which promises to “get under your skin” should probably leave the reader with some sort of reaction. Whether good or bad, excited or scared, a horror book should be provocative and elicit a response. Unfortunately Ex Sanguine left me bored and a little confused.
One’s a natural born killer—a remorseless hunter restlessly prowling the night for victims to quench an unnatural bloodlust. The other’s a vampire. A bored vampire. His centuries of existence have left him world weary and detached, until one day his thirst is reinvigorated when the deadly and intricate work of the Sanguine Killer catches his eyes.
Let’s start with the first line of the solicitation. There appear to be two main characters. IF that is the case, why did it take writers Tim Seely and Josh Emmons so long to a: introduce the second character and b: make it clear in any way that she is important to the book. Sure, he was probably trying to subvert expectations by making is believe that the main character/killer was the vampire. But the reveal took too long and there is not enough investment by the reader to care that there is a killer on the loose (who is not the “main” character). I was far more interested in the book when I thought it was going to be a Dexter-style book with a supernatural twist. A story of a killer on the loose (with whom the reader empathizes) with the FBI on his tail is far more interesting than a case of mistaken identity.
Next line. “The other’s a vampire.” Really? He is? Where the hell is that covered in the script? Demon? Sure. Alien? Why not. But vampire? Nothing really covered there. There is one off-hand mention that the character, Saul, likes his room dark because of the deepwater fish he collects. However, nothing indicates that is anything more than a quirk of character, as opposed to a reveal. I’m not looking to have things spelled out. I like figuring things out on my own. But if a plot point is that Saul is a vampire and he doesn’t look like a vampire or act like a vampire, or have it mentioned anywhere in the script that he is a vampire, how am I suposed to figure it out and care that he is a vampire?
Wrapping up the solicitation: “His centuries of existence have left him world weary and detached, until one day his thirst is reinvigorated when the deadly and intricate work of the Sanguine Killer catches his eyes.” Did this person read the same book I did? First of all, Saul doesn’t appear to be world-weary. He is haunted, troubled, and desperate ti “fit in” and be “normal” around other people. As I mentioned before, he is very much like Dexter. There is a need inside him to appear just like everyone else while he deals with what is haunting him. While the fact that there is a killer on the loose does come in to play fairly early in the story, it is difficult to say that it “catches his eye” in any way. He is, at best, annoyed that someone is making his life difficult by flooding the area with police and FBI agents.
The art by Seely is the real standout of the book. It is clear, concise, and conveys a sense of normalcy which is needed to make the supernatural elements pop. The only thing that threw me was the design of the vampire. It looks more alien or demonic with its gaping mouth full of sharp teeth than it does vampiric. Again, without the clues in the script the art has to cary an awfully heavy burden.
Ex Sanguine #1 is available today from Dark Horse Comics. Check out a three page preview here.