They’re a weird little hybrid of an art form, aren’t they? I mean, why are they “motion comics” rather than just animated shorts? Well, for one thing, there’s minimal animation. In most motion comics, the the camera pans over the artwork, but the characters and objects in a scene don’t move much. Motion comics are basically like audiobooks, except that you have the added benefit of some visuals. This approach is sometimes successful (Marvel’s Spider-Woman motion comic written by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev) and sometimes not (Marvel’s Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, where whoever voiced Wolverine sounded like they took up smoking to play the part), but it is interesting to me to see how creative motion comics can get given their seemingly limited range.
Dark Horse Comics, in partnership with Felicia Day’s YouTube channel, Geek & Sundry, has brought their adaptation of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain to motion comics, written by David Lapham and drawn by Mike Huddleston. It’s the story of Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team of expert biological-threat first responders, who investigate a Boeing 777 that lands at JFK International Airport and goes dark on the runway, causing the Center for Disease Contro to fear a terrorist attack. As it turns out, it’s not terrorism at all…it’s vampires. Of course it is.
The way that Del Toro and Hogan have approached the subject matter is refreshing – much in the way that The Walking Dead refreshed the zombie genre by having the outbreak happen to people for whom zombies are a new thing, rather than going the ironic route where media savvy people have learned so much about the supernatural from pop culture that they know how to handle undead beings from having watched TV. The Strain treats vampirism like a virus, and the crisis is approached from a medical perspective. Too bad that David Lapham is doing the writing. It’s no secret that I’m not his biggest fan, and in The Strain, the fact that actors are performing the dialogue he’s written only highlights how cliched and awful it is; big, dramatic pronouncements that don’t sound like they come from actual people.
The art, too, leaves much to be desired. While Huddleston’s sparse style might come across well on the printed page, it’s too bland for a motion comic. A medium that is so minimally animated needs quality artwork that is either interesting or detailed (ideally, both) to take the motion the rest of the way and give the eye something to do, but Huddleston’s doesn’t do that. It’s too generic on screen to pull us in, and Lapham’s writing is too melodramatic to make us care. Throw in mediocre voice acting that sounds like one person is phoning in every voice, and it all adds up to a very “meh” enterprise.
While motion comics deserve to be explored as a medium, it takes a great deal of care to create one that is successful. Sadly, The Strain falls short.
Part One of Dark Horse’s The Strain motion comic is available now at Geek & Sundry.
Chuck Hogan, Dark Horse Comics, David Lapham, Guillermo Del Toro, Mike Huddleston, comics, motion comics, vampires