“The Vain covers a lot of ground in five issues, literally. It covers many decades and takes in locations across the world. That really shows the scope of the ambitious tale being told here; a group of four vampires, The Vain, and their need to get blood to survive, and their dogged pursuer Agent Franklin who devotes his life to proving that vampires do exist and that they are behind a series of blood heists and murders across the globe.”
Written by: Eliot Rahal
Illustrated by Emily Pearson
Coloured by: Fred C Stresing
Colour Assistant: Macy Kahn
Lettered by: Crank!
Publisher: Oni Press
The Vain covers a lot of ground in five issues, literally. It covers many decades and takes in locations across the world. That really shows the scope of the ambitious tale being told here; a group of four vampires, The Vain, and their need to get blood to survive, and their dogged pursuer Agent Franklin who devotes his life to proving that vampires do exist and that they are behind a series of blood heists and murders across the globe.
The beauty of hopping across different cities and countries is that the story constantly feels refreshed, and it gives artist Emily Pearson a chance to render different eras and places in a stylish manner. The strong lines and angles giving a real distinctive sense of continuity. These are the same characters being followed throughout.
Fred C. Stesing’s colouring helps add to the atmosphere as the choice of colour palette also gives a real sense of time and place, with little changes reflecting the changes through the decades as the story progresses.
Then there’s the slightly gory aspects of the art which anyone reading about vampires should and would expect. Here it sometimes shocks, but those shocking moments give real character insight in the way The Vain use violence; from ripping out guts to shooting heads you can tell a lot about a person from the way they kill someone. However, there’s a strange moral streak running through The Vain, who prefer their meals to be criminals, bad guys and Nazis…most of the time.
Eliot Rahal weaves an intriguing tale of Lost, Orphan, Marquis and North – The Vain – as they pursue blood, survival and a touch of excitement across the world. From killing Nazis in World War 2, to hedonistic mistakes of sex and drugs in the sixties, to the final reckoning in the present day, The Vain are a dysfunctional family who need each other but are not without their tensions.
The relationship between Lost and Orphan stays at the heart of The Vain. Lost wants and needs to protect Orphan, and any risks Lost takes are mostly about protecting Orphan as they stick together throughout the decades, living a lifetime together, but aware that even as vampires that lifetime might be limited. One of the reasons for that is Agent Franklin, who serves as the narrator for nearly all this story through his letters and journals (expertly lettered by Crank!). He is the one who first ponders the nature of The Vain, but his pursuits of them and their truth takes on a dangerous obsession through the decades as we see a man literally spend his life trying to get at the truth only to be stymied by his boss who has reasons for keeping the truth about The Vain quiet.
Both Lost and Franklin are tragic figures caught in their individual missions. Lost needs to keep her family alive and undetected while still enjoying life. Franklin needs to prove first himself and then that he was right about the vampires existing and being behind crimes ranging from stealing, to murder. They have much in common with their determination and yet, ironically, Lost remains ignorant of Franklin’s individual pursuit whereas Franklin has no idea that he is not the threat The Vain actually spend their time running from when they do run.
The interweaving of these two aspects is well done and you know that there’s no happy ending here, but still the end when it does come is both satisfying and shocking. It’s a real reckoning of these characters.
If you like your vampires you will enjoy The Vain. There’s nothing especially new here in terms of vampire lore – they can survive gunshots, they die in sunlight, they need blood, all the classic vampire stuff. The origins of The Vain are never expanded upon. At times the fact they are vampires feel just like one way to see them as immortal criminals though their identity as vampires is key to how The Vain perceive themselves and explains their moments of arrogance in the face of humanity.
The Vain is a satisfying read which will appeal to fans of vampires, fans of vintage settings and people with a soft spot for broken FBI agents. Worth checking out in trade as the story plays out beautifully in front of you.
I give it a solid 4.5 blood bags out of 5 (a vampire ate the last 0.5).