Jay Faerber’s newest horror miniseries for Image Comics is Graveyard Shift, concerning vampires and a cop working the night shift. Faerber’s notes at the end of this first issue divulge that Graveyard Shift has been in the works for some time, since around 2003, with both Faerber and artist Fran Bueno taking their time to get everything just right. Years have come and gone, and vampires have become de rigeur in pop culture right now, but the tone of the series still stands tall: it’s a love story about Liam and his fiancee Hope, with a dagger driven straight between them early on when Liam gets into a beehive of trouble he’s certainly not prepared for.
Faerber starts off Graveyard Shift #1 with a nice dose of action, introducing Liam and his team of cops busting down the door of a suspect. They think they’ve stumbled on an empty apartment until a very pale man with a snarled face throws a bunch of cops around the room; they put a couple holes in the perp but he gets away, leaving everyone wondering what it was they just saw. These moments are full of dark colors to highlight the shadowy vampire within the apartment, and Bueno’s artwork melds perfectly in these early scenes – the panel where the vampire hangs above the group is particularly effective.
Then Faerber gets in a little characterization before the fangs close around the duo. Liam and Hope enjoy a nice candlelit dinner of Chinese, discussing her latest attempts to land an exhibit in an art gallery, and Liam explains that he’s only got a few more days on the night shift before he switches back to days. There’s a nice bit of pathos here: Liam is so close to not having to deal with vampires, but he misses out by a few days. Things will never be normal for him, all because of this one job.
Graveyard Shift is clearly utilizing some vampire lore, but this first issue doesn’t do a lot of explaining about “the rules.” The vampires that come to Liam’s door have to be invited in, and it looks like most normal weaponry won’t take down these undead hunters, since one of them gets shot in the head without dying. They also conventionally hang out in graveyards at night around their open coffins. Bueno’s designs, though, are awesome – I love the wrinkled, pale looks of the punky vampires, and Graveyard Shift gives Bueno a couple different moments to shine with full pages. The last page of the issue finds a group of vampires pouncing at Liam, and the coloring and artwork comes together quite well.
It’s difficult to find much original content in this first issue, though. Faerber’s developing story is good, but it doesn’t stick out as a series that is reimagining vampire tropes. Even in his essay, Faerber mentions the fact that the progression of vampires has sort of overwhelmed the subgenre since he first started writing Graveyard Shift, to the point where the series doesn’t exactly feel fresh. But it’s not as moldy and stagnant as its decaying vampires either – the character development here is better than most first issues, and Bueno’s art elevates this from a standard vampire series to a good one. The onus is on Faerber to continue the miniseries in a direction that doesn’t feel too trodden.