Life Sucks

Life Sucks when you’re a vampire without the exotic bearing, the classy clothes, and the family fortune. Dave only wanted a job as a convenience store night manager, but his boss, Radu, turned out to be a bloodsucker in more ways than one. Dave got turned into a thrall so Radu could order him around without paying him.

Dave’s now a vampire, and it’s nothing but a drag. He used to be a vegetarian, but even now, he refuses to kill, which means he doesn’t even get cool vampire powers. He’s not mysterious or seductive or hypnotic, just an eternal college kid facing an immortal future of boredom. Dave is broke, alone, and stuck in a soul-sucking job. Then he meets Rosa, a beautiful goth girl. And so does Wes, a rich surfer dude vampire with no scruples.

Life Sucks cover
Life Sucks
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Writers Jessica Abel (La Perdida) and Gabe Soria (on his first graphic novel) have worked out some clever modern-day twists on the traditional vampire mystique, creating a modern hierarchy of Transylvanians with all-too-human motivations. Some of this story is comedic — the satire of death wannabes is particularly funny — some coming-of-age, some romance… it’s a worthwhile read, although the pacing tends to move in fits and starts. The slower-moving character sketches with sharp dialogue are amusing, and they tell the reader more about the rules of this fictional world, but they don’t always go anywhere in terms of the plot. (Like life.)

Like the movie Clerks, whose dead-end jobs have a lot in common with this setting, the story here is driven by dialogue. The pacing can be uneven, but the point is the character motivations, which are insightful, even though the conclusion is abrupt. Dave’s lack of understanding of other people means the reader will be calling him an idiot for not preventing an obvious late plot twist. Two big themes — whether goths and those they idolize belong together, and how much Dave is willing to change — are tackled, but not in the depth hoped for, and too near the end. A key event wouldn’t have happened if Dave had only realized what was obvious to every reader, and the resolution is told instead of shown, killing the drama and any sense of danger.

Warren Pleece’s art (Incognegro) is quiet, not calling attention to itself. The text drives the story, but Pleece’s expressive figures give it life. His style looks journalistic, as though he’s reporting what happened instead of creating fiction. The resulting verisimilitude grounds the more mythical (or occasionally horrific) elements.

Mostly, Dave’s likable, even though he’s a schlub. He deserves better than he’s gotten. Rooting for him to maybe get some of what he wants, or at least to snap out of complaining and take action, pulls the reader through the book.

If you like reading about the undead exploring the ennui and challenges of young adult life, also check out another First Second title, Vampire Loves. That one’s by Joann Sfar, translated from the French, and takes a more fantastic approach to the characters, although the underlying struggles are similar.

An online preview of Life Sucks is available. The writers have been interviewed about the book’s creation. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)


5 Responses to “Life Sucks”

  1. Good Comics for Kids » Linkfest: The dots are talking to me Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson reviews a couple of kids’ comics at Comics Worth Reading: The Super-Scary Monster Show and Kaput and Zosky, as well as the more teen-oriented Life Sucks. [...]

  2. vid Says:

    I was a bit underwhelmed by this book. It can be pretty funny and the characters are believable but there are a few obvious instances where random coincidences move the plot forward. Some character act illogical simply to create drama or cliche misunderstandings. The ending is definitely a weak point being very underdeveloped. If the ending were better it could make for a good fun read but it ends up feeling more like a copout.

  3. *Drawing Words & Writing Pictures — Best of 2008 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] a Story, as well as the graphic novel Odds Off. Jessica Abel’s works include La Perdida and Life Sucks, and together, they have taught years’ worth of comic courses, gaining important practical [...]

  4. Chris Le Galle Says:

    I found this book to be rather unfunny but quite cute. I tend to like the ending a lot. Notwithstanding I feel, that sharper dialogue could have elevated what in essence is a really good idea for a comic book. Warren’s work give the characters their life. The colourist also did a brilliant job.

  5. m00g13 Says:

    This book has its strong points – solid art work, nice setting a very novel approach to the vampire mythos. That said, it makes some missteps that are tough to forgive. The ending is extremely unsatisfying, and at times the characters behave so illogically as to render the story insipid.




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