I first read Day Men about a year ago, but never really considered writing about it until now. However, a recent article about Image Comics on Gizmodo UK got me thinking of my favourite current comics, and that none of my top three series are by the two big publishers of the comic world. The Walking Dead and Chew are both Image, while Day Men is BOOM! Studios. The publisher thing is kind of a moot point, but had I not thought of it I probably wouldn’t be telling you about what I’d consider my top comic. So…yay?
Day Men is about vampires. Actually, scratch that. It features vampires, but it’s not really about them at all. Day Men is about those who work for the vampires, the humans who can do what the vampires can’t: survive the sunlight. The titular day men. More specifically, it’s about David Reid, the day man for the Virgo Family. And when I say “family” I don’t just mean kin, I mean it in mob sense. The world of Day Men is ruled from the shadows by the 50 Families, secret vampire clans who for centuries have controlled the path of the world, while engaged in wars and power struggles amongst themselves.
Vampires have become a popular subject in recent years, and it’s really nice to see something new and different come to the table. The vampires in Day Men are just that, vampires. If the story were about them it might be pretty boring. But Day Men isn’t about vampires, and that’s one of the things that makes it great. These days there are plenty of different kinds of vampire stories in the wake of Twilight and True Blood, but they’re still about the vampires. No matter how many different stories you tell about vampires, they’re all going to be similar. They’ll be immortal, may or may not control the planet, and may or may not have issues in the sunlight. There are certainly a lot of different things you can do, but you have to give some semblance of vampires, otherwise they’re not vampires, they’re something new. Day Men gets away from all that by focusing on the humans in a world of vampires, allowing a story of vampires to not me a story of vampires. They drink blood, they live for centuries, they sleep in coffins and die in the sun; but the vampires of Day Men don’t feel cliché at all. The story’s not enough enough about them for them to feel cliché, even though they are. Day Men is able to take something old and make it new by simply looking at a different subject in a tired world.
Now we’re getting into spoiler territory, so turn back now if you are interested in reading Day Men. The spoilers will be confined to volume 1, which is issues 1-4. I have 6 and 7 as well, but by the time I started reading 5 was unavailable, so I can’t really continue. The beginning of Day Men centres around the fang trade, which is just what it sounds like, a black market for vampire fangs. After recovering the fangs of one of his employers, David Reid, the new day man for the Virgo Family, goes to recover Nybor, the Virgo drunk. Upon locating Nybor, David finds something terrible: a dead vampire of the rival Ramses Family. The Virgos soon find themselves completely cut off from all their contacts and funds. Not long after they learn the true secret of the fang trade: someone is bringing back the scourge, human-vampire hybrids unseen for millennia. Hybrids with the strengths of vampires, and the ability to survive the sun.
I mentioned the Virgos being cut off from their funds and contacts, this is another strength of the vampires in Day Men. Yes, they’re just plain old vampires. But they don’t run around at night luring innocent victims and sucking blood, they’re organizations. They may run the world, but they have weaknesses other than the sun. If they lose their money, they stand to lose everything. Wars break out, fought with swords and knives, and literally tooth and nail. Day Men is full of action and violence, but much of it is not the kind you’d expect from a vampire story. It’s the kind you’d see in a movie about war or the mafia. Again, this is all because of how the series looks at vampires. Day Men doesn’t take vampires and change them in some way, takes regular vampires and changes the scenario. They’re not just blood suckers, they’re mafia blood suckers. They employ humans to do the dirty work they can’t. They control the world, and in secret they go to war over it.
It’s not easy to tell a story about vampires and keep it fresh. Stories of those who feast on the life of humans have existed for thousands of years in many different cultures. But writers Matt Gagnon and Michael Alan Nelson, along with the stellar artwork of Brian Stelfreeze, have found a way to make something new out of something old. Even if you’re not a big fan of vampires, Day Men is really worth checking out. Again, it’s not a story about vampires, it’s about their world and those around them. It could just have easily been about aliens secretly controlling the world. The vampires are simply the building. It’s a vampire story, they’re still visible, but that’s about it. It’s the humans and the world that are the foundation of Day Men. No matter how much you see the vampires, it’s other things that are keeping them up.
Do you read Day Men? What’s your take on the vampire story?
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