(P)Review- Carlos Trillo and Eduardo Risso's "Vampire Boy"

I spent the last few days reading a book called Vampire Boy by one of my favorite creative teams, the Argentinean duo of Carlos Trillo (Chicanos, Borderline) and Eduardo Risso (Jonny Double, 100 Bullets, Batman: Broken City). I couldn't resist buying this 475 page black and white paperback, which was a steal at $25, when I was at the comic shop this weekend. Vampire Boy is a slick collection of the series of graphic novels (called Boy Vampire, which I think sounds better), originally published by venerable European publisher SAF Comics.

In a total departure from traditional vampire lore, Vampire Boy follows the nameless ten-year-old son of the great Pharoah Khufu (known today as Cheops) who has been cursed with immortality and so unable to die, or grow up for 5000 years. Since the time of the Pharaohs, he has been trapped in childhood. Due to a strange incident long ago, he became invulnerable - every time the rising sun hits his body, all of his wounds are healed, no matter how grave.

The boy has an archenemy in Ahmasi - One of his father’s concubines who alone shares his curse of immortality. Through 5000 years, in many disguises and identities, she has pursued him, driven by pure hatred and only one wish: to finish the boy once and for all, so as to be the only immortal and take her place as the one and only Goddess.

The nameless boy's story becomes interesting when he runs into an elderly native American shaman from a nearly extinct tribe who welcomes the young immortal into the closest thing to a family as he has known in centuries. Of course, whenever Ahmasi learns of his whereabouts, she relentlessly pursues him, leaving a string of dead bodies in her wake. 
As you know if you've read any other books they've collaborated on (I've read Chicanos and Borderline), Carlos Trillo and Eduardo Risso work extremely well together, and you get the sense that Trillo is intentionally playing to Risso's strengths. Every character in the story holds his or her place on the page... Even in black and white, you never question who is doing what, because Risso is such a master of making each character have unique body language. The female characters can change hairstyles and outfits frequently without any confusion, and even throwaway characters are very memorable.
Now I gotta warn you, this book is not for the squeamish. Sticking to what she knows, Ahmasi passes the time as a stripper and prostitute. Anything she can't take by force with her vampiric strength, she obtains by seducing some loser to get it for her. Just that alone will tell you that not only is the violence in places horrifically brutal, but the steamy bits are pretty pornographic. I wouldn't say it ever comes off especially gratuitous though... and you can tell that Trillo and Risso are having a ball.

Like the Twilight movies, Vampire Boy runs roughshod over the traditional vampire mythos. The nameless boy and Ahmasi have no fear of the sun. In fact, it is a source of healing... The nameless boy remains dormant at least twice over the centuries when entombed underground, where the sun's healing rays can't reach him. Other than these times, The vampires in this book rarely sleep at all. The immortals can also eat food, although their hunger is so ravenous that they can eat 20 times as much as a normal human, and still be unsatisfied. Still, Vampire Boy sets up its own rules, and is faithful to them. When angered or particularly hungry, the immortals' fangs get to work, locking down on jugulars like it's nothing, but you never get the sense that controlling their hunger is a a problem. Their hunger is not their curse, it's their immortality. Even after making friends and evading Ahmasi, the nameless boy's eyes light up when it is suggested that there is a "cure" for the endless boredom and loneliness of immortality.
This densely written and illustrated 475 page volume was a joy to read. Vampire Boy was translated brilliantly, though it still had subtle hints of awkwardness you get anytime you read a work translated from another language (a familiar sensation for manga and anime fans). Trillo does an excellent job of inserting exposition into the flow of the dialogue in such a way that it's not annoying. After all, this book was originally consumed as 4 separate volumes, which probably came out years apart. The black and white artwork is gorgeous from beginning to end, and the story is engaging. As I said before, the 475 page book is a steal at $25, but you can click here to get it on Amazon and save another eight bucks! This is definitely something you need to cop by any means necessary, so it gets my HIGHEST recommendation: addition to the BegBorrowSteal list!



corance said...

Thanks for this review, Samax. Borderline was great, and this sound pretty dope, too.

samax said...

Yeah, I liked Borderline. This is much doper than that, I'd say. I only read the first book of Borderline, though...

I'm really feeling these reprint books by Trillo and Risso. This mess is the illest isht I've read in a while.

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