Graveyard Shift wears its influences on its sleeve; it clearly works off of traditional vampire tales, but it’s also indebted to films like Fright Night, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Bordello of Blood. In earlier reviews of Graveyard Shift‘s first three issues, I couldn’t help but remark that Jay Faerber and Fran Bueno’s series felt too reminiscent of the films it gleaned inspiration from, and in Graveyard Shift #4 – the final issue in this four-part comic – that feeling continues to detract from what could have been an interesting stand-alone miniseries.
Faerber’s writing isn’t bad, and it’s nice to see a series that can stick to its short story so steadily. There’s no need for Graveyard Shift to expand with multiple characters; it’s a series that is simply interested in the relationship between Liam and Hope as the vampire change continues to thrust a dagger between them, for better or worse. It’s not a very original storyline, and Faerber often falls into the trap of presenting fairly generic characters – besides the first issue, Liam’s “detective work” has been limited to tracking down the vampire responsible for turning Hope.
Issue #4, at least, comes to a climactic conclusion using some of the inventiveness of Graveyard Shift‘s inspirations. Liam and Hope come prepared to fight the head vampire with super soakers filled with holy water and stakes, and Faerber draws from iconic horror films for this setup. In general, it’s a pretty pleasing setpiece thanks to Bueno’s artwork – the action is tense and often allotted two whole pages for maximum range, a nice touch that gives this issue a sense of momentum.
But Graveyard Shift isn’t able to overcome the feeling that we’ve done this before. It’s one thing to use horror film as inspiration for a new, more interesting story, but Faerber sticks to a tried-and-true formula, blocked out in predictable ways. It is Hope who eventually finishes off the head vampire after Liam fails to do so, putting an end to the mind control that he has over her; while it’s nice to see Faerber empowering Hope, it’s certainly not a twist in any sense, and generally expected since her name is literally Hope.
There’s one moment that really sticks, though, and that’s Faerber’s reference to Stephen King’s fictional town Jerusalem’s Lot. Faerber is clearly inspired by King’s stories (even Graveyard Shift as a title is a short story by King, although with nothing in common with this comic), and the not-so-subtle reference to Jerusalem’s Lot is an interesting insight into Faerber’s idols.
It doesn’t do much to save Graveyard Shift from its derivative nature, though. Other reviews from various comic reviewing outlets have indicated that Faerber and Bueno’s work is an entertaining return to traditional vampire tales, but they seem to forget that, for the most part, Graveyard Shift doesn’t attempt to creatively branch off from any of them. The comic, then, is unable to break free from the coffin of unoriginal vampire stories; it’s a fine way to pass the time, but it doesn’t have much at stake.