When it comes to graphic novels, I do not pretend to be an expert. Mainly that’s because the self-professed “experts” in the field who don’t actually make graphic novels are just greasy, overweight, bald, middle-aged men who… OK, maybe I am an expert in the field of graphic novels, after all. That being established, I will say this of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s 30 Days of Night—Worst Graphic Novel Ever!
OK, not really, not even close, but it had a few issues for me.
Notice that I said, “It had a few issues for me.” The problems I detected with the graphic novel are really problems I have with graphic novels.
My primary issue stems from the panels. The panels are tiny. I’m in my early-to-mid 40s and time is only moving faster with each passing year. Tiny panels coupled with a fuzzy, hazy, muted illustration style made picking up the action in the panels difficult. On some of the pictures, I had to remove my bifocals and break out my electronic hobbyist’s loops. (Then I gummed down some applesauce, watched reruns of Matlock and Murder! She Wrote until the wee hours of 9:00 PM before hitting the sack to wake up at 3:30 AM and write letters to the editor of the local newspaper. Then I went and looked at things in my yard until the sun came up.) When a book starts getting more than four panels on a page, it’s going to be a pain-in-the-ass for the middle-aged.
Having to stop and stare at the panels, break out the specialty lenses, and find better light—that’s my problem. But it’s also the author and illustrator’s problem in not anticipating a wider audience for their books. Sometimes the kiddish approach of bright and sharp works better for weary eyes, too. One of the nice things about The Sandman series was that the books were cleanly, clearly illustrated, even when things were shadowy, and the color didn’t distract from the darkness and depth of the story at all.
While 30 Days was set in a dark location, the images were deliberately fuzzy and that just tripped me up.
And it wasn’t just that the fuzzy images slowed my reading… they broke my train of thought… so they broke the story.
Again, these are my problems, my personal issues based on my physical limitations as a result of time and gravity.
That said, I enjoyed the idea of the vampires coming to this tiny town at the top of the world to hunt and wreak havoc during the long night. It shows an intelligent monster behaving intelligently. It makes sense and it’s integral to the story. It’s the kind of smart thinking on the part of the author that makes the story enjoyable, a fine mix of the cerebral and the visceral.
Overall, the book was fine. Again, I couldn’t engage the text fully because of the images, but that’s my problem. Still, it’s worth noting that as comic books and graphic novels aren’t written as being just for kids anymore, they probably shouldn’t be illustrated as if they’re just for kids, as well.