First published back in 1992, ‘Tapping The Vein: Book Five’ was the last instalment of the ‘Tapping The Vein’ graphic novel series which offered up adaptations from Clive Barker’s incredibly well received ‘Book Of Blood’ series.

This fifth and final volume includes graphic novel adaptations of ‘How Spoilers Bleed’ which was taken from ‘Books Of Blood: Volume Six’ (1985) and ‘Down, Satan!’ from ‘Books Of Blood: Volume Four’ (1985).

How Spoilers Bleed – 32 Pages
Stumpf wasn’t happy with how things were turning out in the jungle.  His conscience was clawing at him.  There was no way he could be as merciless as Locke.  Having come over from Europe to buy up great expanses of the Amazon rainforest from the country’s uncaring government, all in the hope of making vast amounts of money from developers, the spoilers have now come face-to-face with the rainforest’s Amazonian tribes.  With language proving to be a major barrier between the spoilers and the ancient inhabitants of the jungle, Cherrick loses what little patience he had left and uses the one language he knows the Amazonian natives will understand – the language of violence.  And so, after shooting and killing one of the young natives, the spoilers are cursed by one of the tribes elders.  More than just the blood of the innocents will soon be on their hands.  For the spoilers themselves will be bleeding…

The backdrop for the tale is very different from the rest of the shorts in the ‘Books Of Blood’ series.  The oppressive heat of the jungle along with the outrageous greed on show makes for a hard situation to swallow from early on.  Indeed, the horrendous actions of the Europeans towards the Amazonian natives sings true to elements of our own despicable past.  And when Barker twists the fate of the tribe onto the spoilers themselves, the blood flows and the menacing torment begins.  Although the concept is somewhat nasty and quite literally dripping with blood, the end result is slightly weaker than the potential sum of its parts.  This is a shame, especially with the altogether predicable ending not really adding any extra kick to the final conclusion.  That said, this is still a nasty little tale that seems to get under your skin and claw away at your conscience throughout.

Steve Niles and Fred Burke’s graphic novel adaptation of Barker’s short sticks very closely to the original storyline; once again shoe-horning much of the intricacies of the tale into the storyboard format.  Much of the atmosphere and mood of the short has been successfully projected into Hector Gomez’s illustrative imagery.  Indeed, the stark colours of the rainforest along with the brilliant splatters of spoiler blood make for a strangely attacking read.  The adaptation certainly does the original short justice.  However, the original short did have its own weaknesses which seem to have been magnified in the comic book format.  But the adaptation should still please the vast majority of Barker fans, delivering a strong pictorial representation of this conscience-prickling tale.

This adaptation was later published again within the later re-printing of ‘The Yattering And Jack’ (1993) graphic novel.

Down, Satan! – 22 Pages
Gregorius is a very rich and powerful man.  Over his lifetime he has accumulated a grotesquely vast wealth, with little else in life he could possibly want for.  But it wasn’t enough to keep him happy.  Far from it.  For one night he wakes to find himself godless.  And that scares him more than anything.  So, with the help of his advisor Warren Dickerson, Gregorius decides to build a very real hell on earth, in order to confront Satan and have God obligated to step in and bring his eternal soul back into the bosom of his heavenly fold.  And so he sets to work, having the insane architect Leopardo design his elaborate new hell, within the uncaring locale of North Africa.  And once the colossal and ungodly temple has been built, Gregorius will sit alone within the blasphemous construction, waiting for the arrival of the devil.  And the wait is long…

The original tale was far and away the shortest of the stories in the entire Books of Blood collection.  In fact, ‘Down, Satan!’ was written with little to no time given to setting down the elaborately contrived premise for this oddly menacing tale.  There was no room for characterisation, just the working facts of the bare-boned storyline.  That and the guttural darkness that slowly creeps up through the tale, consuming the tale in a blanket of insanity and hellish damnation.  The end result is a truly magnificent decent into an ungodly hell, vividly described with its haunting corridors and burning pits of fire.  Barker purposefully toys with a somewhat ambiguous ending, leaving the reader alone in a brutal descent into a hellish madness.

Steve Niles’ graphic novel adaptation is given the unique opportunity of actually being able to flesh out the horrific tale just that little bit more.  Here the reader is actually allowed to glimpse the blasphemous construction of Gregorius’ new hell.  And artist Tim Conrad has managed to create a hell of a fitting beast.  Not only that, but the constantly dark frames, the attention to detail in the characters’ (important) mannerisms and facial expressions, and the final depictions of the savagery performed within the new hell on earth, are absolutely spot on.  A phenomenal adaptation of a truly superb short and sharp story.

The graphic novel runs for a total of 58 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Tapping The Vein’ instalments:

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