Review - Blood and Dust #1 (@ActionLabDanger)

"I told 'em to settle down."

Vampires have a lot of pretty obvious tells. There's the aversion to sunlight, the sharpened fangs and the general affection for blood. What's not really one of their more obvious tells is the desire to raise a family. Doing just that and more is Judd Glenny in Blood and Dust #1 from Action Lab Danger. The issue is written by Michael R. Martin and Adam J. Orndorf, illustrated by Roy Allen Martinez, colored by Raymund Lee and lettered by Kel Nuttall.

Judd Glenny is the first American vampire, once he terrorized the West as its most fearsome predator, but for more than 40 years now he’s spent his days in peace, reduced to little more than babysitter for his own vampire offspring. But when the evil that lives in the swamp surrounding the small backwater town he calls home gets a hold of one of Judd’s great grandkids, everything changes.

What Martin and Orndorf do so well in Blood and Dust #1 is build tension, all of which leads up to a pretty strong conclusion. The two start the issue off with seemingly innocuous horseplay between siblings before introducing Judd as something more than just an ornery grandfather. From there Martin and Orndorf rely on relatively straightforward dialogue that both explains some of Judd's backstory and the story going forward. There's a larger plot dynamic in play which is revealed at the end, but the duo's approach to giving the reader history prior to that doesn't feel forced. And each of the characters involved feel sufficiently unique in their own regard as well, offering interactions that feel natural.

The pervasive sense of dread hanging over the issue comes courtesy of Martinez whose illustrations are ragged. Judd in particular is portrayed as a weathered and worn old man, living a life that eschews fancier trappings for something more simplistic. The rest of the setting around him feels polluted by time in a reflection of Judd's own age, but the inclusion of a more current visitor gives Martinez the chance to showcase some strong contrast. Martinez does a great job with facial expressions as well that underscores the terror that comes with living in a somewhat decrepit environment haunted by a menacing swamp. Lee's colors are very dark and dire, further embellishing and already terrifying environment for the characters and the reader.

Blood and Dust #1 is a vampire book, but it's one that takes a more familial approach to the concept. Judd is a crotchety old man with some vampire mixed in for good measure and he's determined to keep his family safe and do what is considered to generally be the right thing. Martin and Orndorf craft a tale that's full of tension and suspense that promises to keep the narrative dour. The artwork by Martinez is grimy and furthers the atmosphere as a less than ideal mix for anyone. Blood and Dust #1 is a great first issue that offers a hook for the reader and doesn't let go.

Blood and Dust #1 is in stores now.