First published back in December of 1989, ‘Tapping The Vein: Book One’ was the first of many ambitious adaptations of Clive Barker’s short story fiction into the graphic novel format.  This volume formed the first of five ‘Tapping The Vein’ publications, each of which included two comic strip adaptations of short stories taken from Clive Barker’s incredibly well received ‘Book Of Blood’ series.

This first volume includes graphic novel adaptations of ‘Human Remains’ which was taken from ‘Books Of Blood: Volume Three’ (1984) and ‘Pig Blood Blues’ from ‘Books Of Blood: Volume One’ (1984).

Human Remains – 31 Pages
Gavin was a young prostitute.  Whether he offered himself to a wealthy widow or a bored businessman, as long as the money was there, he didn’t care.  And it was always easy work to get for him, because he had the looks.  And so, one night when he was once again out on the game, he easily picked up the very nervous Kenneth Reynolds, who very quickly escorted Gavin back to his apartment.  An apartment that housed many intricate sculptures.  But before the two of them could get intimate, an incessant thumping noise starts to reverberate around the building.  And then all of a sudden, Reynolds has been attacked by an unseen assailant and upon investigating, Gavin finds a poorly formed statue of a man fully submerged within Reynolds’ bath.  A life-sized statue that gradually steals Gavin’s identity.  A statue that slowly becomes more human than Gavin ever was…

Barker’s ‘Human Remains’ is certainly more atmospheric and down-beaten than it is in-your-face splatterpunk horror.  It does still have its bursts of adrenaline, such as with the vicious fight between Gavin and the thuggish pimp Preetorius, but the pace is predominately far more sluggish.  However, the vast majority of the tale is instead spent submerging the reader in the clinging coma of a suggestive mystery, laced with a wealth of utter misery.  When the storyline gradually comes around to exposing the (not too surprising) doppelganger twist, the very restrained pace of the tale simply slides itself further into a downward spiral of depressive misery and ultimate acceptance of complete loss.  Compelling in its own dark and depressive way, this more subdued tale just gets under your skin with its guttural misery.

P. Craig Russell’s adaptation for this first volume of the ‘Tapping The Vein’ graphic novels sticks very closely to Barker’s original short, maintaining as many aspects from the original tale and indeed as much of the actual wording as is possible.  The result is a somewhat elaborate portrayal of the short story, which seems to cram in the various twists and turns of the storyline into a not entirely suited format.

Russell’s artwork is very basic and uninspiring, sticking to the comfortable comic book style of the illustrative artwork that is very much the norm for graphic novels of this nature.   Little is actually seen of Gavin in the frames, which perhaps misses a key element of the original short.  Vanity is very much at the forefront of the tale, and as such, this should ideally be echoed within the artwork that accompanies the storyline.  Sadly this seems somewhat lacking, and ultimately fails to really do the atmospherically bleak short the justice it deserves.

Pig Blood Blues – 26 Pages
Neil Redman, a former police officer, is beginning his new job at a young offenders borstal. Soon into his new role, one of the boys at the facility named Tommy Lacey informs Redman that the spirit of one of the boys that supposedly went missing named Kevin Henessey is roaming the borstal's grounds. Redman takes it on board to look deeper into this mysterious claim. However, the grotesque secret that is hidden away at the root of the borstal is a lot more horrifying than Redman would ever have believed...

Barker offers up a truly disturbing and harrowing tale of possession and brutal corruption hiding within a government run establishment. The story bleeds paranoia from the very outset; marching forever on to the horrifying reality of Henessey's disappearance and the subsequent possession. With the despicable truth to this eerie tale finally unravelling, Barker hammers the truly unforgettable twist-conclusion of the story straight at the reader, driving home a litany of horrifying finales to this monstrous tale. A truly memorable short story, set to linger in the back of the reader's mind for a long, long time afterwards.

This second tale that was adapted by Chuck Wagner and Fred Burke from Barker’s original short literally crams in the numerous twists and turns of the utterly menacing short into an almost chaotically paced graphic novel.  Scott Hampton’s constantly dark and atmospheric illustrations fit the bill perfectly, expertly visualising the oppressive environment for this grisly tale.  The magnificently downbeat ending is re-envisioned from the original incredibly well, which is certainly a hell of a challenge considering the intensity of the finale.  All in all, the graphic novel adaptation is an incredible achievement, and one which will no doubt be thoroughly enjoyed by all Barker fans.

The graphic novel runs for a total of 62 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Tapping The Vein’ instalments:

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