When Natural Born Killers meets Barnabas Collins, does it result in a gory bloodfest or a mild case of anemia?
EXSANGUINE is the tale of Saul Adams, a gentlemanly vampire enjoying his peaceful and wholly boring eternity in a small apartment in Alexandria, Virginia. He reads, collects light-sensitive deep sea fish, and frequents a local diner to soak in the local color just as he has for the last thirty odd years. But the sudden appearance of a serial killer puts his mundane existence at risk when it draws some much unwanted attention to his own nightly habits.
TIM SEELEY and JOSH EMMONS craft a wonderful character in poor Saul. He struggles with his unending life, as a vampire cursed to roam the earth feasting on the blood of men, but also as a man who has lost all sense of himself. Much as what happens to people with time, Saul has come to forget the smaller, finer details of his life, though unlike people, this means forgetting names, faces, and experiences that span centuries. To ensure that not everything fades into the growing mist of time, Saul has taken to writing a journal, extensively chronicling whatever small pieces of his life might, one day, be worth remembering.
Tim Seeley’s art really works in concert with the script to highlight Saul’s conflicting undead existence. Saul is a bored one moment, tortured the next, and a ravenous hellbeast just one page after that. And when the blood needs to gush and fly, Seeley manages to present art which not only delivers on the gore, but also keeps from straying into comical (even when it involves magically flying shards of glass and a human pincushion). Even the more mundane scenes at a diner filled with locals and regulars are fleshed out and given life by both their language and their character designs, from the group of middle-aged teamsters, to the once lovely and now very-aged owner of the Commonwealth Diner.
Unfortunately, Exsanguine suffers from being a bit too ambitious. When DARK HORSE originally published the title as a limited 5-issue miniseries in 2012, the core plot revolving around serial killers and FBI agents playing cat-and-mouse is resolved, if a bit too neatly, by the end, but it also left a whole world and mythology, and a very compelling character, to sit untouched quite possibly forever. There are constant references to a larger tapestry, of magic and myths and monsters, such as how vampires function in this world or their competitive rivalry with bottom feeding creatures known simply as “the rats”. However, little time is dedicated to them, and it largely feels like great ideas are used as simple throwaway plot devices.
If you are looking for a fun, complete story, you could do no wrong with Exsanguine and its tale of two very different individuals and their respective takes on immortality. The story is fast and fun. The artwork always goes for the kill. And the characters have more depth than many other similar characters of the vampire and serial killer genre. The only complaint to be found is knowing that, unlike Saul Adams’ undead existence, his story and its world will come to an end after the cover is closed.