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Life Sucks
posted February 9, 2008


Creators: Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria, Warren Pleece
Publishing Information: First Second, soft cover, 192 pages, May 2008, $19.95
Ordering Numbers: 1596431075 (ISBN10), 9781596431072 (ISBN13)

imageFirst Second's disappointing Life Sucks brings to comics the same kind of listless quality that saturates a significant percentage of modern television and film. Once you have a grasp on its cute premise -- a vampire whose life is built around a degrading service labor job and quotidian, day-in and day-out, step-above-subsistence living -- you're stuck with a few uninspired riffs on that basic subject matter and some nice-guy, pretty-girl romance scenes straight from one of the new wave of nebbish TV shows like Chuck. The story even tries to get some dramatic mileage out of the concept that "real-life" vampirism isn't as glamorous as its fictional or on-screen counterpart, a trope that felt tired when other creators worked similar territory ten years ago. What's a shame is that Life Sucks is a solid, professional effort in most ways. It's recognizably well-crafted. There's nothing you can point at and say, "There. That's what's wrong with this," nothing that would cause you to isolate a moment and show it to a nearby friend as a shocking failure of craft. Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria have a keen, perhaps shared ear for empty-headed dialog. Warren Pleece's art juggles the required attractive elements of the story and its equally important minimum-wage realism with understated aplomb.

The problem with Life Sucks is that these craft elements serve an uninspired idea. "Slacker vampire" feels like the kind of thing that gets cooked up rather than the end result of creative impulse, the sort of artistic effort that if the concept really is awesome in the eyes of its creators then they've forgotten to let the rest of us in on why. If not for the luxurious way in which it unfolds, this would read exactly like the kind of poorly disguised movie pitch that drives way too many American comic books. The generous amount of time we spend with the characters in Life Sucks does not mean an equivalent level of dramatic development. The authors dance around refining or exploring their central idea past the tag line stage, at least in the thematic sense. There are hints that something should be made of Dave's attitude and unwillingness to invest in his own life as a parallel to those who are similarly disaffected only without the fangs, but that fails to build into anything at all beyond a cynical, overly facile point or two at book's end. Working with such a restrictive canvas, the creators would have to manage stellar set pieces throughout and execute every piece of the story with the skill and precision of a Spartan regiment for Life Sucks to be a rewarding read. They don't come close. Other than some giggle-worthy moments where we learn our protagonist Dave lacks proper vampire abilities because of poor diet and general laziness, there's nothing memorable scene to scene, nothing in the way of a surprising twist that might draw some thematic weight into play. I found it a chore to finish, and easy to forget. I wouldn't be surprised if its media rights have already been sold.

please note the art is taken from an ARC, not an actual copy, and is likely of a much poorer quality