“UNDYING LOVE” #1 (Comic Review)

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Orginally published at Fangoria.com on March 26, 2011

UNDYING LOVE #1 (Image Comics) gradually builds an action-packed premise with its tough-guy protagonist. Ex-soldier John Sargent is focused solely on his never-ending kill spree. He loads his guns and fills his gas tank, leaving a trail of dead bodies all in the search of a master vampire. Nothing is going to stop Sargent from chopping the head off of the bloodsucker, who turned his girlfriend into a vampire.

Sargent and girlfriend Mei never seem to catch a break during their fugitive run. Hundreds of armored assassins are hunting them down wherever they go. Even if they successfully manage to escape this time, the couple will never be at peace for as long as they live. These well-trained assassins have made an oath and will never stop chasing after them, because Mei is a vampire. Though he is exhausted and low on bullets, John will do anything he can to stop them from plunging a wooden stake into her heart.

To protect the rest of humanity, Sargent has to keep his vampire squeeze locked up in her room. He carefully boards up the windows, preventing any sunlight from entering. Because Mei refuses to drink blood anymore, her body achingly starves for nourishment. She will not be able to survive much longer if her addiction isn’t routinely feed. In hopes of setting her free from her curse, John seeks the advice of a wise man, who is thousands of years old.

The process to save his lady’s soul is a tremendous obstacle. In his journey, John has to find Mei’s sire. Her diabolical maker has actually sent more souls to hell than Death himself. To find the cure, John has to rip out the bloodsucker’s heart and burn the blood-pumping organ to ash. In the final step, John’s girlfriend has to ingest the charred ashes to become fully human again.

The writing and art duo of Tomm Coker and Daniel Freedman is very hard-edged with tough-guy dialogue. Their sense of dark humor shows up unexpectedly, easing the tension along the way. At the climax, the droll banter between the immortal and John is a perfect model of drama and satire. Though this issue is filled with guns and monsters, the theme is really about two people overcoming extraordinary odds to stay together.

The artwork has a gritty vibe that plays off of the low-key lighting and long-stretching shadows. Surprisingly, the illustrations focus heavily on the boyish exterior of the immortal. This eternal being may have the body of an innocent child, but the facial features display an older person. Readers can see the layers of detail in the close-ups of the facial construction.

UNDYING LOVE #1 starts out strongly enough in this eight-issue miniseries. Those expecting lean and mean vampire action will have to wait for the second issue. Comic book fans will surely find an enjoyable mixed bag of action, romance and horror. It’s available next week; don’t miss out on all the blood and fangs!