First published back in December of 1989, ‘Tapping The Vein: Book Two’ coincided with the publication of the first instalment - ‘Tapping The Vein: Book One’ (1989).  This second volume used the same formatting as the first volume using two comic strip adaptations of short stories taken from Clive Barker’s incredibly well received ‘Book Of Blood’ series.

This second volume includes graphic novel adaptations of ‘The Skins Of The Fathers’ which was taken from ‘
Books Of Blood: Volume Two’ (1984) and ‘In The Hills, The Cities’ from ‘Books Of Blood: Volume One’ (1984).

The Skins Of The Fathers
– 26 Pages
Deep in Arizona, in the middle of nowhere, Davidon’s car has packed-in.  As Davidson tries to locate the problem with the car, slowly but surely the sound of a nearing carnival can be heard in the distance.  Squinting into the horizon, Davidson can see the strange and out-of-place procession advancing.  And as their forms become clearer, so he quickly learns that demons really do exist.  Demons that have a long history within this territory.  The people of the nearby town of Welcome are none too pleased about the presence of such beasts.  And as is always man’s answer to the unknown such as this, a violent revenge is planned on the creatures that it seems have taken a local’s boy…

For ‘The Skins Of The Fathers’ Barker really goes to town with his outlandish imagination, crossing his demons with a hot and oppressive wild-west setting.  Once the second major thread of the storyline is revealed, it quickly becomes apparent to the reader how the tale is likely to continue.  And indeed it does just that, but with the added bonus of some pretty wacky over-the-top demonic creations mixing their bestial seed with the good old human population.  The tale soon comes screaming to a halt as Barker throws down a brilliantly inspired ending that is literally flooded with intentionally-suggestive imagination.  Not the most compelling of reads from start to finish, but certainly a damn good short with plenty of twisted menace to it.  Much of the short bears a strong resemblance to that of Barker’s novel ‘
Cabal’ (1988) as well as including a truly inspired scene of bodies trapped in solidified quicksand that was later re-used in Barker’s loose film adaptation of ‘Lord Of Illusions’ (1995).

Chuck Wagner and Fred Burke’s comic book adaptation of Barker’s short crams in as much of the original story as possible, quite literally shoe-horning the rampaging action and jumping viewpoints into the less adaptable medium of a graphic novel.  Wagner does well with this undoubtable challenge.  However the conversion is far from perfect, leaving much of the pictorial version lacking in atmosphere, impact or indeed the all-important imaginative flare.  John Bolton’s illustrations are also far from accomplished, missing the mark with the depictions of the demons as well as generally delivering too much of a sketchy and rushed  depiction of the storyline.  This is a damn shame for such an otherwise exciting and inspiring tale.

In The Hills, The Cities
– 26 Pages
During a romantic vacation in Yugoslavia, Mick and Judd find themselves driving along a dilapidated back road in the middle of what seems to be a deserted nowhere.  Their unplanned exploration takes them up in to the quiet hills in which two cities are situated; seemingly hidden away from the outside world.  Two cities that participate in an astonishing ritualistic event that takes place every ten years. For in this remote and otherwise isolated rural area, the entire populations of the two cities (Popolac and Podujevo) climb on top of each other, binding body to body with rope and harness, in order to form two colossal giants, constructed from the very people of the cities. These gigantic forms (as tall as skyscrapers and each made up from almost forty-thousand people) are set to do battle with each other on the planes of Yugoslavia. But the Podujevo giant has a weakness within its construction.  A weakness that spreads like cancer.  And when the giant comes crashing down, so will the sanity of all those around it...

Barker's imagination runs riot as we are confronted with this harrowing tale bursting from the very seams with the surreal. With such an ambitiously bizarre and unique concept forming the basis of the story's plot, Barker unleashes what can only be described as an epic premise crammed into such a short space.  When things go wrong and Podujevo finally collapses, Barker confronts the reader with a vivid barrage of human carnage on a truly colossal scale. With sanity slipping away on every page, Barker's vision of the mindboggling mayhem caused when the two cities clash is horrifyingly twisted to the very end.

For this second graphic novel adaptation in this second ‘Tapping The Vein’ volume, Chuck Wagner and Fred Burke have once again dissected one of Barker’s monstrously imaginative shorts, taking the bare bones of the short and ingeniously cramming it together into the comic strip format.  John Bolton’s illustrations are absolutely superb, somehow visualising the goliath giants in an illustrative format.  What seemed almost the impossible to adapt into a graphic novel, has turned out to be an absolute triumph.  A truly spectacular short that is done absolute justice by this well envisaged adaptation.

The graphic novel runs for a total of 60 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Tapping The Vein’ instalments:

Make a free website with Yola