Bite Club

Author: Howard Chaykin and David Tischman

Cover Artists: Frank Quitely

Penciller: David Hahn

Colours: Brian Miller

Publisher: Vertigo

Dates Published: 2007

Pages: 274

Blood may be thicker than water, but it isn’t thicker than money. That’s something the Del Toros – the vampire clan that runs organised crime in Miami – know all too well. Beautiful, rich and immortal, these bloodsuckers are masters of backstabbing and infighting – and when their patriarch Eduardo is killed, the fangs really come out. Youngest son Leto vowed to leave his family behind when he became a priest, and his ambitious sister Risa would be happy to keep it that way. But Eduardo’s Will names Leto as his successor, leaving Daddy’s little girl on the sidelines and putting Leto’s faith to the test.

‘Bite Club’ has a lot of things in its favour. It is a Vertigo production – a company that has arguably spawned some of the greatest comics of all time. Its storyline involves vampires, blood, sex, organised crime, violence and betrayal. Yet somehow this all fails to deliver.

‘Bite Club’ suffers from one of the greatest graphic novel sins – cover art that far exceeds the actual comic quality inside. Every comic book has cover art that is better than the inside pages, but in good quality comics the difference isn’t huge. ‘Bite Club’s’ cover is so alluring, with its tongue and cheek humor of the milk carton and the way Rica is portrayed as a lustful predator. Inside we get very substandard art. It feels a little like a ‘bait and switch’ situation. The people are drawn cartoonishly, but without an edgy sense of style to convey the mood and emotions. In order to compensate for this there is an ongoing commentary that is not only annoying because it states the obvious, but also because it constantly explains the aspects that they failed to convey through illustration. Different monotone colours drench the pages to separate scenes. Instead of this setting a nightlife or art deco tone it gives the impression that the colourist was an amateur or lazy.

Somehow the story is extremely boring. It is neither here, nor there. It has all the elements of other more exciting stories, yet mixes them together with very bland results.

The only interesting aspect of the story – the incestuous relationship between Leto and his sister Rica – does not last long enough. Leto could have been the saviour of this graphic novel. His struggle with religious belief and lust for his sister could have been drawn out into an intense moral and psychological storyline. Instead, it is handled vaguely and ‘nipped in the bud’ quickly, when Leto makes his final decision without much evident personal conflict.

The characters are not likable. We do not empathise with them or care about their fate. Everyone is selfish and ranging from a little to extremely twisted. Somehow it is handled in such a way that their debauchery comes across as normal and inevitably boring.

By the end of the story no moral or even anecdotal points are drawn, except for an allusion to ‘God giving us more than we can handle’. Though I generally don’t like strong moralisation (like the kind you’d get from comics such as Superman), I was left feeling that reading the story had been a slightly pointless exercise. Having a story that gives no clear answer can work brilliantly if other aspects take up the slack (such as good plot and characters). I only finished ‘Bite Club’ because I had reached half way and just wanted to know the end so I could put it down. Ultimately, it left me feeling extremely underwhelmed, which is a shame because given a better writer and penciller the series could have been worked into something good.

♥½ – 1½/5

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