True Blood Comic Review, Issue #1

With the release of IDW's "True Blood", we now have a comic book based on a TV series based on a series of novels. And while that may seem weird, there are enough differences between "True Blood" the TV series and the Sookie Stackhouse novels to support another written version.

The "True Blood" comic, which debuted this week from IDW Publishing, is a nice throwback to Season 1 of the show, before all our favorite characters got thrown about the Southeast. The first issue takes place entirely in and around Merlotte's, and all the key characters -- Sookie, Bill, Eric, Sam, Jason, Tara and Lafayette -- are there. For fans of the show, it'll be nice to see everyone all together again, especially since everyone has been so split up so far this season.

The writing for the book is perfectly in tone with the series, which isn't surprising since series creator Alan Ball was involved in the plotting of the story. Ball got an assist on the story from Kate Barnow and Elisabeth Finch, a pair of writers on the series. IDW's Mariah Huehner and David Tischman get the writing credits, likely for taking the story and crafting it into a true comic script. However, Ball's touches remain obvious throughout the book, as you can actually hear the characters speaking the lines of the script. It's even called out when Sookie says "Bill" and the demon responds "Beel?". Eric then chimes in with "You get used to it", which is exactly what I'd expect him to say there. Also, literally every single word Bill Compton says is dripping with his... Bill-ness (fans of the show will know exactly what I'm talking about).

There isn't a single line of dialogue or thought in the story that sounds out of place with what the characters would say in the show. That said, there is something missing -- profanity. With IDW taking an HBO show and selling it to a mass comic book market, that had to be toned down (there's also no nudity in the book, though that would have been out of place with the story that's presented). The book does come with a "Suggested for Mature Readers" warning on the front (in tiny, tiny type, right under the bar code), but there's only one "fuck", which is well below what I've come to expect from "True Blood".

The plot itself isn't like what you'd see in the show, but that's actually a good thing, as the writing group has used the medium to break out from the boundaries of what television can allow, and introduced a new type of demon that would either look terrible or cost an absurd amount of money to produce via makeup and special effects. The demon's motives aren't particularly clear as of yet, but his actions suggest where this story is going, which is good enough for a first issue.

As for the artwork, well David Messina has always been one of my favorite IDW artists, dating to his work on the early Angel tie-in books. Messina does a great job of making the characters his own, while also making them true to the actors who play them. There's one page where Sookie looks like she may be too tall to be Anna Paquin, but that may be more a trick of the page layout than anything else. Otherwise she's a good enough likeness to please "True Blood" fans without forcing a photo-realistic comic down our throats.

The last thing I have to mention is the cover, or should I say "covers". The one pictured above is Cover B, drawn by J. Scott Campbell (I love his take on Sookie) and the main cover is drawn by Messina. There's also a supporting character focused cover by Andrew Currie, and another main character cover by Joe Corroney. There's then a Virgin Sketch variant of Campbell's cover, a cast photo cover, four retailer specific covers (which are just variations of one of the four main covers) and two IDW con exclusive covers. For those that lost count (and I wouldn't blame you if you did) that's 12 covers for this single issue. I know IDW loves its alternate covers, but that's a little much. I'm happy with the two I bought (Cover A and Cover B), though I could see myself getting the photo cover at some point too. Still, I hope future issues limit themselves to two or three covers at most, for the sake of those people out there who want complete sets.

Grade: A-