Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bite Club

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Bite Club (DC/Vertigo, 2007).

When Bite Club, a miniseries written by Howard Chaykin, first appeared in the mid-2000s, I dismissed it out of hand because it looked like pandering. Sexy vampires. If they're in YA prose books, then they're brooding, misunderstood young males, and if they're in comics, then they're aggressive females, usually naked. Make no mistake, Risa, the usually naked central character of the two miniseries, is every bit of a stereotype as Edward in Twilight. It just depends on your target audience. If you're writing for eleven year-old girls curious about sex, your vampire is Edward, and if you're writing for sexually frustrated twentysomething boys, your vampire is Risa.

I paused after I found a very, very cheap collected edition of the eleven issues of Bite Club when I realized David Hahn was credited with the art*. Hahn had, at that point, shown up a surprising number of times in some Bookshelf entries over the summer. I really do like his art quite a lot, and I'd probably enjoy looking at the work even beyond all the bare comic book boobies. Unfortunately, I chose to read it as well.

Oh, most of the original series covers were drawn by Frank Quitely. Some of them are cheeky and silly and those are worth looking at. Just not the text.

Bite Club is every bit as tired and tedious as I felt it would be when I first heard of it, and a lot of it is down to the protagonists who circle around Risa. The premise is that in this world, vampires are treated as an ethnic minority and have been running organized crime in Miami for decades. Just to show how much originality and thought went into this production, the family consigliere is an old Jewish lawyer who calls the young male leads "boychik." Well, of course he does.

But if no thought at all went into coming up with a Sopranos-with-vampires comic, even less thought went into crafting this thing so closely to the Vertigo template that it's practically a parody. Of course Risa is gorgeous, and a lesbian, and gets naked a lot, because this is a Vertigo book! Of course she comes onto the male protagonists, who are unsure and lack confidence about a) sex and b) vampires, who are just a metaphor for sex, because this is a Vertigo book! This hews so closely to the Vertigo stereotype that I think Chaykin spent more time seething about his contempt for the audience than he did developing the characters.

Put another way, when Risa is finally sent to jail early in the second story, above the objections of the rookie detective who has fallen for her aggressive, untouchable charm - and Lord, it's infuriating, the way the "nice boy" becomes so smitten with the idea of Risa as she makes the first move - anyway, when the narrative tells us that Risa is heading for jail, anybody who is unable to guess that Hahn will soon be illustrating an expansive naked girl fight in the prison shower has not read any fiction since kindergarten. It's that obvious, and that tiresome, and, really, not at all sexy and certainly not recommended.

*Note that, owing to poor reading of the credits on the part of this reviewer, the original draft of this review credited co-writer Tischman with pencils and Hahn with inks. I regret the error.


David Hahn said...

Please note that Howard Chaykin and David Tischman are the writers, and David Hahn (me) was responsible for the pencils AND the inks, Brian Miller on colors.

G.G. said...

With egg on my face, I apologize for the error, David, and have amended the article accordingly. I'm sorry.