I dote on Vault Comics all the time. You might say I gush. That’s fair and I ain’t apologizing because the books they put on the shelves continue to redefine the conventions of an already unconventional medium. Essentially they are the perfect encapsulation of why comics are the greatest creative outlet there is. Enter Bleed Them Dry from Hiroshi Koizumi, Eliot Rahal, Dike Ruan, Miquel Muerto, and AndWorldDesign. They have taken Vault’s tag line, “The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Comics,” and created their own superfood for all of us to mainline. In a BladeRunner-esque world a monster straight out of medieval lore has been completely remade in a neo-punk tale that feels right at home in our present day. Also there’s ninja aspects and extraterrestrial shenanigans. Oh, and it has a nice pulpy/noir detective wrapping. What? Yes you read all of that correctly and it sounds as insane as you think it does. Also, it’s fucking perfect.
Immediately the book sinks its teeth into you and draws you right down into the thick of its pages. The proverbial shit has already hit the fan. Borrowing from his excellent family-mafia style Hot Lunch Special, Rahal invokes that old school grit to engulf several of the book’s elements in the first few pages of issue one. The approach is smart because as the book gets moving we find out that as much as there’s upheaval and an unprecedented occurrence going down, the world that exists is long established. There’s a rank, file, and order with society and its inhabitants. As much as has changed it remains the same. This in particular is a neat trick given everything that has been tossed into this hot pot of a comic. It is in that, that Ruan and Muerto’s work truly shines a light on this marriage of elements.
The demand from the creative team that Bleed Them Dry invokes, as a story, is impossible to fathom. This is an ambitious book. Given the publisher and writer I’m not sure why I’m surprised at this point. In fact, this will be a book that both (along with the rest of the creative team) will be able to point to as proof positive that mining the far reaches of creativity is beyond a worth while effort. Wrangling the concepts and presenting them is incredibly difficult but it is masterfully done in Bleed Them Dry. To top it off AndWorldDesign ties an expert bow around things with the lettering. From captions that house a character’s writing, different thought captions, and the tone/expression in the dialogue itself the structural pieces of the book are second to none. It all immerses you wholly into this expansive and innovative world. Nothing about it takes away from anything else. Again it’s fucking perfect. Back to the story itself. Good old-fashioned police work is the probe through which this ‘bigger than’ story is being explored. Much of the genius in Bleed Them Dry resides in the fact that the lore is already built in. Readers are dropped into an established and pre-built world. As pages turn and events unfold certain realities of how things are get revealed. Toss in a few catch up bits and we’re given what we need to know despite it being very obvious that there’s plenty more to be uncovered. One of the things that helps bridge it all is the attention given to each part singularly so that it may do what it needs for the whole of the book. The efforts of the police have the proper pulpy tones, the vampires look and feel every bit the part, and the cityscape itself lends to the overbearing structure of it all. But, just what in the fresh hell is going on?
It isn’t a simple answer as the first two issues have been paced wonderfully to reveal just enough to invest you in several plot points going forward. At the heart of Bleed Them Dry is a murder mystery. The Immortals are being killed. What the shit? Starting off the story is a big game event and already every character introduced is intrinsically woven into the fabric of the mystery either directly or through the events that the first two issues see play out. Thanks to the brilliant mixture (and juxtaposition) of the futuristic vampire infused world with the history and lore of the ninja element of the puzzle being alive and well we get a ridiculously balanced cast. That permeates to the story itself as well. The previously mentioned catch up bits ensure that some of what people may have found hard to buy alongside some other things fall right into place. By the end of the second issue however there’s a whole host of shit about to go down. Personally I can’t wait for it.
Neofuture cyberpunk ninja fucking cosmic vampire murder mystery noir …. Yes, it is literally everything you could want.