A bloody conflict comes to a head in the vampire-infested future as this miniseries creeps up on its conclusion!
Written by Eliot Rahal
Illustrated by Dike Ruan
Colored by Miquel Muerto
Lettered by Andworld Design
Captain Black has been placed in charge of Asylum’s police force and given only one order by the mayor: bring the Vampire Slayer to justice. Now, Black is on the warpath. He’s using all of the tools at his disposal to hunt down his former partner, Detective Harper Halloway, and the Ninja Vampire, Toyo Yamamoto, who harbor a truth the world was forced to forget.
Jumping in on a miniseries like “Bleed Them Dry” at its penultimate issue can be difficult, if not impossible. There is a lot of context to catch up on, not all of which is fully explained. Most of the characters are named, but the majority of the world is left without exposition of any sort. Still, the idea of vampire ninjas over a millennium in the future is a very interesting premise to begin with, so hopefully Eliot Rahal can pull it together to make for an entertaining plot regardless of preexisting context. How does he do, just before his take on Hiroshi Koizumi’s story concludes?
The answer is, to be frank, a mixed (blood) bag. A lack of exposition at this stage is to be expected, of course. Most of the audience are likely to have been around since earlier in the arc given its brevity, so providing exposition would be largely a waste of page space and likely mess with pacing. Most of the character interactions are relatively self-explanatory, even if only parts of the way in which this futuristic world operates are made readily apparent to an incoming audience. From fear to aggravation to stoicism and more, the emotional responses tell a lot more about what is going on than outright spelling things out would in the first place, and the overall output as a result is rather entertaining in a somewhat archetypical fashion by having readers latch on to established concepts in media rather than individually named characters themselves. The effect does lock some new readers out of the context of the main plot, but the general gist of the previously-shown events are more or less apparent.
One particularly interesting element is in the opening pages, where diary entries across slightly less than a month work their way through the story on the same pages as someone entirely else appears to be hunting for the author of said entries. The diary entries show a “Renfield” type of character descend from obsession with his prospective sire to despair, then to desperation, while the hunter’s story is much more concise and over a far shorter time span. The effect of these two interwoven tales, which leads into one intersecting with the other by the time it is through, is to show two different approaches to this world of figurative and literal bloodsuckers, and how both sides can degrade over time when faced with such a terrifying threat even more than a thousand years into the future.
Still, large swathes of how this world works are less than clear in Rahal’s writing for “Bleed Them Dry” #5 taken on its own. How exactly do vampires function? How expansive is their rule? How downtrodden (or not) are the general population? How exactly do the apparent “hunters” fit into things? All of these questions are left more or less unanswered, with a character shown in the closing pages given next to no explanation, likely having been spoken about in previous issues. Again, these questions do pose a problem for people trying to get into the series this late into its run, but drawing in newcomers is likely not high on Rahal’s list of priorities as he ramps up for the conclusion of this six-part miniseries.
Dike Ruan’s artwork helps a great deal to make the story, a bit difficult to understand in a vacuum, be intriguing to the audience, be they newly arrived or not. Through various forms of “grit,” he makes a good case for the terror of the apparent dystopia that is the year 3333. Thin, highly detailed outlines work alongside rougher work for details, enhancing the shadows and emotional depth of various characters as they deal with violence and pain, especially with close-ups or otherwise centered images on a single person’s facial expression. Actual acts of violence and backgrounds, on the other hand, are heavily stylized, only shown through silhouette, or for the latter, may even be heavily blurred to give a sense of chaos or disorientation, all keeping to the still rather ridiculous elements of the mere premise to this miniseries. In some ways, it is not unlike the style of the famous Crazy 88 fight of Kill Bill, shifting from one kind of style to another without missing a beat.
Miquel Muerto helps to sell the utter hopelessness and gritty violence of the year 3333 locale known as Asylum through his unrelenting use of particular color choices throughout “Bleed Them Dry” #5. Warm lights pervade the streets of the metropolis as well as the horrible past actions and of the diary writer, seemingly drawing a connection between the city itself and the blood spilled by the immortals. Meanwhile, a cooler color palette is used inside of certain places such as that of the apparent villain, showing an attempt to stay away from the direct action that is doomed to failure, due to the violence inherent in the system.
Final Verdict: 7.0– Though not a particularly good place to jump in for newcomers, “Bleed Them Dry” #5 is still a rather interesting story for a penultimate issue.