The Strain, vol. 2

The Strain 2Summary: A vast conspiracy has made it nearly impossible for the CDC’s Dr. Ephraim Goodweather to convince the world that there’s a vampiric epidemic spreading across Manhattan. His only hope is to go head to head with the ancient evil responsible for the wave of bloodthirsty vamps set to drown the Big Apple… but can the strain be stopped?!

Based on the trilogy of novels by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. 

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The Strain, vol. 2, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan 7.5

In this second and final part of ‘The Strain‘ (which itself is the first of three novel that Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan have written in this series), we are introduced to a new character, an imposing-looking pest control expert who discovers that there’s a serious rat problem emerging from New York City’s sewers: the rats that are coming out are the large ones, the ones that usually force the smaller variety to the surface.

He wonders what is going on and digs below the city, only to find what the rest of us already know: that there are vampires running loose. What we didn’t know until now, however, is where they had all disappeared to. Even this massive exterminator, Vasility Fet, is scared out of his wits and eventually gets in touch with our heroes after a few more close encounters with these new pests. He will become the enforcer of their group.

Because… they have yet to find the Master. And they must. All depends on this.

Unbeknowst to our protagonists, the Master has eclipsed himself to join Eldritch Palmer, a billionaire who is behind the Master’s journey to NYC, at his penthouse. Palmer’s quest for immortality has led him to this, but now his place is infested with the Master’s underlings which he lets run rampant. I wondered how badly he want to be immortal, because just the sight of these creatures should put off just about anyone.

As I read the book, I had some questions: What is going on with these vampires? Why are some of them still self-aware and others aren’t? I’m sure that this is something that is elaborated on in the novel, but it wasn’t at all clear to me here. Do they become less self-aware after a certain amount of time? Is it the reverse? Does it depend on the victim? And, if they’re self-aware, what is possessing them to go on rampages the way they do?

It also strained my suspension of disbelief in a number of instances:

  • Gus is trapped in a police van with an infected friend, who proceeds to attack, causing the van to crash. But the doors conveniently open, so that he can escape without being stung. And then he’s able to flip his legs over the handcuff (a tough task to say the least) – again without being attacked. Hmmm…
  • Palmer left the security of his penthouse for some reason that is unclear to us, but then our heroes can just walk in when they go out looking for him. What? Has everything been left unlocked from the ground floor up? Isn’t there anyone around anyone, not even building security?
  • Our heroes are using a nail gun as a makeshift weapon. Fine. But later they have silver-coated nails, which is weird to say the least. Why would the old man even make those in the first place? Did he actually feel that nail guns were the best weapon? Or did he predict that it would come down to this?
  • Dr. Goodweather decides that he’s going to be the one to kill the Master. Why? Why would he have more right to it than anyone else? Anyway, wouldn’t the exterminator be the best pick of the lot, given his background and abilities? And why isn’t anyone contesting this notion? Goodweather is putting everyone at risk out of ego.

In any case, ‘The Strain’ remains an entertaining book, but it feels slightly sloppy in some areas. Again, perhaps the book explains all these things carefully, but this should have been transported over to the graphic novel because now we are left incredulous as we read it – and, if it’s in the original novel, then that’s a damned shame. In any case, I’m very curious to see where the story goes in the next chapter, ‘The Fall’.

And I will no doubt check out the television series as well.

Post scriptum: This second volume of ‘The Strain’ features a small gallery of sketches and drawings with commentary at the end – these shed light on some of the details the comic book doesn’t spend time on. Not enough to answer my questions, but still.

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