Undead In L.A.
Life Sucks by Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria, illustrated by Warren Pleece
Life SucksJessica Abel and Gabe Soria, illustrated by Warren Pleece
(First Second · Paperback · $19.95)
Vampires, oh boy! In a day and age obsessed with the zombie genre (the 2000s), once in a while it's nice to revisit a good, old-fashioned vampire tale (like in the '90s). When it comes down to it, zombies are pretty dern boring, and stories involving them are all the same: The living protagonists fight swarms of gooey, flesh-hungry reanimated corpses, the end. Vampires are much more malleable and, therefore, more interesting. They span time periods, character profiles and evilness levels and adhere to varying lore. Vampires can be and do anything as long as they are in accordance with the fundamentals: being nocturnal and subsisting on blood.
One gets the feeling that Life Sucks' creators had that notion in mind when executing this vampiric graphic novel. In visually apropos comic book style, and with its hokey velveteen cloak bowing at underappreciated cult television show “ Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Life Sucks recounts the lives of a smattering of Los Angeles immortals. The three-way collaboration between writers Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria and illustrator Warren Pleece exposes an undead world not different from that of the living.
Through our awkward antihero Dave, a work-a-night convenience store clerk, we meet a cast of archetypal characters: the buddy roommate, the pushy friend, the oppressive boss, the love interest and the villain. In the periphery is a colorfully dull, convenience-store atmosphere of weirdos, degenerates and pretentious goth kids. Dave's existence is peppered with the same toil and annoyance as anyone's. Girl-shy, blood-shy and unable to harness his shadowy powers, his twin-mattress-on-the-floor, Mexican soap opera-watching, hot dog-rotating life is bleak. That is, until one day he’s dragged from the nacho cheesy fog by a pretty goth girl and the imperative battle to win her from a psychotic surfer vampire.
Void of far-fetched vampire fantasy scenarios (psychotic surfer vampires aside), while actually making fun of whimsical 19th-century, Anne Rice-ian ideas, this story could be interpreted as nihilistic parable about common hierarchies within modern-day social microcosms. Dave's is a struggle to overcome oppressors, do the right thing and ultimately find meaning in a generally beige L.A. immortality.
On the surface, Life Sucks is simple and slightly campy, which is both an asset and flaw. High-brow graphic novel aficionados and literary types may find it unsophisticated. On the other hand, aside from being a quick read that's accessible to a variety of blood-thirsty comic book fans, Life Sucks is hilariously sourball and endearingly e-vil.
Life Sucks is the kind of story that supports numerous sequels, prequels and three-dimensional interpretations. Let us hope we haven't seen the last of Dave and company, if only to relish in their relentless ridicule of goths, junk food and vampire stereotypes. The new millenium could certainly use more pointy-toothed black comedy.